A Conservative MP has pledged to continue his campaign for compulsory mediation in boundary disputes – despite the government rejecting the idea last month.
Charlie Elphicke (pictured), MP for Dover and Deal and a former practising solicitor, told the Gazette that he has the support of solicitors and judges in calling for mandatory mediation to settle disputes between neighbours.
Elphicke said a system along the lines of the Party Wall Act 1996, which makes provision for carrying out building works, could work to solve boundary disputes.
His proposal involves placing disputes with mediating surveyors from each side, with the matter sent to an adjudicating independent surveyor if necessary.
The Ministry of Justice last month said it would encourage greater use of mediation and independent expert determination, but stopped short of making it compulsory for all litigants.
But Elphicke has continued to press for fast-track mediation rather than court cases: ‘Every solicitor and judge I speak to is desperate for cases to be solved by mediation. These are toxic cases that no lawyer wants to take on.’
The MP said he was moved to campaign for reform when a constituent had complained of the time and expense involved to settle their boundary dispute: ‘As is often the case with a legal dispute you get emotional and angry – this is about lowering the temperature and finding a positive way forward.’
Last month three Court of Appeal judges made public their anger at the costs incurred in a ‘Dickensian’ dispute over a right of way in Cheshire. The case took up 10 days in court and cost £500,000 to litigate.
The Ministry of Justice report, commissioned after Elphicke had raised concerns, found boundary disputes can be ‘bitter, expensive and time-consuming’. However, it concluded against changing the law, saying that reforms of civil litigation generally would help cut the cost of boundary disputes.