Lawyer could lose £1.3M dream home as she faces having to pay  £1.4M

EXCLUSIVE: Homeowner could lose her £1.3M dream farmhouse as she faces having to pay out £1.4M after losing legal battle against farmer neighbour using her driveway for construction work – as houses he built go up for sale

  • Zoe Bucknell said the work would disturb her ‘forever home’ and horse riding
  • High Court ruled neighbour Mark  Stoneham can complete the construction

A homeowner who lost a court battle to stop her neighbour’s barn conversion faces legal bills of up to £1.4million and possibly losing her home.

Zoe Bucknell had taken game-shooting beef farmer Mark Stoneham to the High Court to try and stop his plans.

But after losing the case to save the peace and tranquility of her home she also faces the real prospect of losing the property herself.

Mrs Bucknell – who lives in her Kent farmhouse with her husband – faces an estimated £1.4million legal bill, having been ordered to pay £300,000 already and the matter of over £1million being discussed at a future costs hearing.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday.  

Mr Stoneham pressed ahead with the work anyway – and the houses he built are now ready and are up for sale.

They are up as a pair for a whopping £2.6million, boasting seven bedrooms and being advertised as in an ‘idyllic location’. 

The homeowner said her enjoyment of horse riding will be ‘adversely affected’ because of ‘increased traffic’ and claimed vibrations from building trucks could be damaging the foundations of her Grade-II listed home, Holywell Farmhouse, near Sevenoaks

Mark Stoneham outside High Court after hearing in barn conversion dispute, which he won

Mrs Bucknell, a keen horse rider with her own stables at home, said ‘noise disturbance, vibration [and] fumes’ from traffic passing up the 55-yard driveway past her house to the construction site poses ‘a threat’ not just to her peace but to the fabric of the driveway itself

Mrs Bucknell claimed her enjoyment of horse riding would be ‘adversely affected’ because of more traffic from the new houses when they were completed and that vibrations from building trucks could damage the foundations of her Grade-II listed home, Holywell Farmhouse, near Sevenoaks. 

The High Court heard that Mrs Bucknell and her family moved into Holywell Farmhouse in 2014, while Mr Stoneham’s company bought the next-door yard and barns from his family, with plans to develop them, in 2020.

Mr Stoneham now breeds pedigree shorthorn beef cattle on an 800-acre estate in Oxfordshire and describes himself as ‘a keen game shot’ but grew up on the family farm in Kent.

The new properties made by the neighbour are already finished and are now up for sale

Zoe Bucknell (right, on her wedding day) was fighting game-shooting pedigree beef farmer Mark Stoneham’s plans to convert a barn into two houses next door to her £1.3million farmhouse

Mr Stoneham (pictured with his wife Hayley) who has a right of way over the drive, pressed ahead with the conversion despite the lawyer’s objections

Nicholas Isaac KC, for Mr Stoneham’s company Alchemy Estates (Holywell) Ltd, told Judge Matthews a right of way over Mrs Bucknell’s drive to the barns was granted ‘for all time and for all purposes’ to Mr Stoneham’s father and uncle in 1972 and he wanted to use that right to complete the build and provide access to the new houses.

But Richard Clegg, for Mrs Bucknell, told the judge this would be ‘wrongful use’ of the right of way over her driveway, and would put her ‘forever home’ in ‘jeopardy’.

In 2021 she went to court and obtained an interim injunction banning construction vehicles from using the driveway to access the barn conversion site.

But Mr Stoneham pressed ahead with the barn conversion despite the lawyer’s objections, making an alternative access track to the site over fields.

Mrs Bucknell then sued at the High Court, seeking a permanent injunction to ban building traffic from her driveway and stop anyone living in the two houses from using it, as well as forcing the farmer to pay her damages.

The disputed driveway at Holywell Farmhouse in Kent which belongs to Zoe Bucknell

But Mr Stoneham fought the claim, insisting the lawyer was ‘catastrophising’ the situation.

The High Court judge said: ‘Demolition and construction are facts of everyday life, and there must be give and take in relation to them.

‘It is clear from the evidence of the traffic management experts that the additional use imposed on the driveway by the habitation of two houses built on the yard would be very small in comparison with the existing use.

‘There is no evidence that any damage would be caused to the (driveway) surface by the increase in traffic movements as a result of two extra houses being inhabited.

‘Use by the occupants of two houses on the yard would, in my judgment, not interfere unreasonably with use by others having the like right, nor with the enjoyment by the claimant of her land.

‘I do not consider that it would amount to excessive use or that it would cause an actionable nuisance, even in the locality as it was in 2014, or indeed 1972.

‘The claimant is not automatically entitled to the maintenance of the same rural peace and quiet that she enjoyed when she bought in 2014.

‘A grant of a right of way is not to be restricted to access to the land merely for such purposes as were reasonably required at the date of the grant,’ the judge concluded.

The ruling means that the construction can be completed using the driveway as access and the occupants of the new houses can also use the drive.

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