In the June 2009 edition of property update, we looked at the unusual case of Port of London Authority v Ashmore. In a trial of a preliminary issue, the High Court ruled that it was possible for the owner of a boat that is moored in a particular place on a tidal river to acquire title by adverse possession, where the boat rests on the river bed or the foreshore at low tide and the bed and foreshore were unregistered.

The Port of London Authority, which owns the foreshore and riverbed of the tidal part of the River Thames on which Mr Ashmore's boat was moored, appealed. The Court of Appeal has set aside the High Court's declaration. However, it declined to substitute an amended declaration, on the basis that the issue would need to go to a full trial.

Things to consider

The Port of London Authority accepted that, in principle, title to the bed of a tidal river can be acquired by adverse possession. However, since the trial of the preliminary issue had proceeded on the basis of a limited set of agreed facts, the Court of Appeal thought it appropriate that the question of whether Mr Ashmore had in fact acquired title in this way should go to a full trial. There, Mr Ashmore would need to demonstrate that he had both a sufficient degree of physical custody and control of the relevant land and the necessary intention to possess it.

If Mr Ashmore succeeds at trial, the court will need to consider the extent of the land acquired, given that the boat moves with the tide. The case underlines that no owner can afford to ignore a third party's occupation - whether that be of land or water.