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Police Called in After Land Boundary Dispute Over BT Street Cabinet

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 (5:27 pm) - Score 3,542

An odd situation has erupted in Norfolk (England) after the 85-year-old owner of a bungalow on Framingham Earl Road (Yelverton) hampered Openreach’s (BT) efforts to conduct maintenance and upgrade work on their PCP Street Cabinet. The pensioner claims the cabinet is built on his private land, but the local authority says it’s public land.

It’s easy to see from the picture that resolving this one might not be a simple matter. For a start there is no physical boundary, such as a fence, and older Land Registry documents don’t always clarify borders as accurately as they perhaps should (spoken from recent experience).

According to EDP24, the telephone cabinet has been in Mr Moreten’s garden since before 1998 when he purchased the property and back then he had no problems with it (perhaps he should have investigated further). However he began to object when Openreach engineers turned up to upgrade the cabinet and allegedly build a new cabinet nearby, which he claimed would harm the value of his home and create traffic problems.

Mr Moreten said:

“I go and stand in front of them and won’t let them work on it. They were trying to convince me my Land Registry documents were a load of rubbish. They’re not. They’ve been proved to be right to the inch.

After I stood there long enough to beat them they said they would be back in a few hours with more bodies. They tried to push through me but I stood there in the pouring rain and eventually I beat them.”

Apparently at one point the local police were even called in, although no further action is currently being taken. Mr Moreten was later offered £750 in return for agreeing to a new cabinet, but he declined and so the problems continue. Sadly the EDP24 article does not include a comment from Openreach, but we’ve managed to get one of our own.

An Openreach (BT) Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Openreach has no plans to install a broadband cabinet at this location (the fibre broadband cabinet for this area was installed in 2014 in Drakes Lane). The original structure has been in place since 1972, and engineers need to access this when workloads require it. We understand that there is on-going consultation between Mr Moreton and Norfolk Highways, and we will assess the situation once the public boundary has been clearly defined.”

Often the final place to resolve complicated boundary disputes is through the courts, although it’s hoped that the council will be able to settle the dispute via an approach that doesn’t involve expensive legal fees. Mind you if the cabinet did end up being on Mr Moreton’s property then that may create new issues, such as in respect to wayleave agreements.

In the meantime ISPreview.co.uk understands that some of Openreach’s additional work on underground cable ducts in the area, which would allow more people to get connected, won’t be able to continue until the dispute is resolved.

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35 Responses
  1. Avatar karl

    ‘the 85-year-old…’
    ‘After I stood there long enough to beat them they said they would be back in a few hours with more bodies. They tried to push through me but I stood there in the pouring rain and eventually I beat them’

    Good on the old fella for not being bullied into submission.

  2. Avatar Darren

    A cabinet in your front garden is the stuff of dreams.. well, my dreams anyway.

    Just needs explaining to him it’s a good thing it’s so close and why lots of people can appreciate that. IMO it increases the value of your home.

    • Avatar karl

      “A cabinet in your front garden is the stuff of dreams.. well, my dreams anyway.”

      You do realise although unlikely even with a cabinet at your doorstep it does not guarantee good speeds or that your home is even connected to that particular cabinet.

    • Avatar Steve Jones


      It might be theoretically possible that your phone isn’t connected to a PCP on your land (or adjacent to it), but is there actually a single example of that? I suppose at a stretch some properties might have been on an EO line and then the network was extended by putting a PCP outside a property on an EO line, but it seems rather unlikely.

    • Avatar karl

      “It might be theoretically possible that your phone isn’t connected to a PCP on your land (or adjacent to it), but is there actually a single example of that?”

      Thousands if not millions of lines, including 200+ where a family member lives.

      Top of their road (lets call it road A) has a cabinet outside a property in road A. However it does not serve a single individual living in road A.

      Instead it serves a new housing estate that has been built at the top of Road A. Between that new housing estate and road A is a large roundabout. The nearest house in the new estate straight line distance to the new cabinet which serves it is probably about 100M.

      There are easily 50+ homes in Road A though which are closer to this particular new cabinet, none of them are connected to it though.

      Road A is connected to a cabinet the other end of that road/street which for the furthest property in road A is several hundred of metres away.

      Thankfully the people i know of in Road A (only about 6 households i admit) get reasonable FTTC speeds with the slowest (IE furthest from the cabinet) managing around 42Mbps and the best, nearest the cabinet (IE about 400-500M at the other end of the road and plonk next to the cabinet) getting the full 76Mb.

      Technically speaking if half the street were connected to one cabinet and half connected to the new cabinet which ONLY serves the new estate it would probably mean the whole of Road A would get the full whack 76Mb… They do not though.

  3. Avatar Steve Jones

    Looking at that gent’s bungalow, it might have been built since 1972 (when the PCP was built). What has he been doing in the past when engineering staff have been accessing the cabinet.

    Often there are precedence issues which arise over situations like this.

  4. Avatar Captain Cretin

    Sadly (for him), I doubt he has a legal leg to stand on, unless there is paperwork about the cabinet and his agreement with terms and conditions.

    As it has stood there for more than 12 years uncontested, the land it stands on is no longer his.

    Had experience with a guy shifting his fence (in the dead of night), 6 or so inches every few months, trying to steal land from his elderly neighbour.

  5. Avatar Lee

    Stupid old get. Hopefully Openreach won’t have to wait too long until he’s no longer an issue.

    • Avatar GNewton

      He has every right to stand up to such a bully like BT.

    • Avatar Matthew McLaren

      How’s BT a bully, they just tried to access the cab to do maintenance…

      The article doesn’t give them justice, but then what article gives any big comapny justice… all souinds like a load of rubbish to me.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      No bullying just trolling in bulk

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Matthew McLaren:

      As the article says: “If the cabinet did end up being on Mr Moreton’s property then that may create new issues, such as in respect to wayleave agreements.”

      You can’t just go into a private property and do whatever build or repair work. I would assume there is an old wayleave agreement somewhere, also there should be a proper land registry record. At the very least BT should have kindly asked for permission to enter this property well ahead of time.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I think you are missing the point to make your own gripe Mr Newton (commonplace), the whole article is about the fact that there is a disagreement. The local authority and BT do not believe it is on his property which is why they haven’t asked for his permission

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Matthew McLaren: Please ignore FibreFred, he keeps stalking other user’s posts and keeps calling names on other posters.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      I wouldn’t jump to conclusions GNewton

      A useful resource:




      Shows clearly where the Highway Boundary is and this includes the GP (BT cabinet).

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheManStan: Thank you for your link. According to this map, the cabinet is right on the border of this private property. As I said, this should have been resolved in a decent manner, there was no need to act like a bully. BT has already has a poor reputation and is one of the UK’s worst rated companies for a good reason.

      A kind conversation with this householder, after a lookup of the property details with the land registry, and finding the wayleave agreement records (if applicable) would have come a long way into resolving this quickly, especially when it is so easy to e.g. find the highway boundary records, as you have demonstrated.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      And your trolling and blatant incorrectness continues even when faced with facts. Amazing

    • Avatar FibreFred

      One post ago gnewton states they were entering his property now they arn’t as that is easy to establish yet gnewton couldn’t but regardless they should still ask lol

    • Avatar Andrew T.

      I think your comment is bordering on ageism.
      It is quite possible this chap has done far more for this country than you ever will. Do you think Corben and Livingstone would get away with this?

    • Avatar GNewton

      According to the EADT24: “I (the property owner) go and stand in front of them and won’t let them work on it,” he said. “They were trying to convince me my Land Registry documents were a load of rubbish. “They’re not. They’ve been proved to be right to the inch.”

      The Highway Boundary link (kindly provided by TheManStan) shows the cabinet to be right on the border of the property. I have not come to any conclusion, but it is clear that BT has not acted in a professional manner. This issue needs to be resolved in a civil manner. Or even in a court.

    • Avatar themanstan

      The land registry documents will be correct, but so are the highway boundaries. What the owner will own will be the subsoil all the way to either the midpoint of the road or the kerb. The planning maps suggest the kerb.

      The highway will be the surface and is owned by the Highway Authority, in this case Norfolk County Council.

      BT will not need to inform the owner, as the owner is the local authority.

      The fact this gentleman has been mowing all the way to the kerb since he´s moved here is irrelevant and sadly it´s ignorance on his part.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Agreed after years he has suddenly decided it’s on his land when the la and other sources disagree sadly I think this will simply cost him time and money.

      The language alone is a concern “I beat them” used twice in the interview, puzzling and worrying. Just some guys wanting to go about their job.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @themanstan: What about the old property boundary marker which you can see on the newspaper’s higher resolution photo, and which may indicate that the cabinet is well within this private property. Also, why would BT have offered him £750? Was it because of a wayleave agreement?

      At any case, BT acted unprofessionally in this case, which does not help with its already poor reputation. I have seen it many times in the past how rude some its engineers can be!

    • Avatar themanstan

      The NCC boundary marker is not a definitive location of the boundary. As the boundaries would likely have changed when the planning for the properties came up…
      Lots of case law on the subject.
      These bungalows are “modern” builds, so the highway ownership will pre-date the plots and in this case so does the cabinet…
      What there will be is a “service strip” along the road which is part of the highway.
      Oxford County Council has a good description:
      As for the BT and the 750 GBP, that´s cheaper than a court case… if it goes the legal route the old chap will likely be in for shock with the legal fees.
      We´ll just have to see how this plays out.
      The reality is that this is all in the lap of NCC, BT would work of their plans.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheManStan: A service strip may be physically shown by ‘highway boundary’ marker blocks in the verge, and the service strip was probably there before this bungalow was built, in which case the BT cabinet is located beyond the service strip, that is, on a private property. If the situation was so clear-cut, BT wouldn’t have offered the £750 to this property owner. It would be interesting to see the outcome of this case, hopefully Mark will do a follow-up article on this in the future as the events unfold.

  6. Avatar TheFacts

    ADSL checker says ‘waiting list’…

    • Avatar Matthew McLaren

      Hmm I bet some of the neighbours will be well chuffed to here “the old git at the end of the street won’t let us upgrade you connections, enjor ADSL”

      If the cabinet has stood since before the land agreement then the police should of immediatly told the old git to go home and chill out.

  7. Avatar dragoneast

    You do all realise that land can be both highway and privately owned? Highway land is not registered at the Land Registry unless the highway authority is also the owner of the subsoil. And highway can include verge, not just metalled carriageway. Unless there is a formal Deed of Dedication (usual only in the case of new estate developments or improved highways) the extent of the highway is a matter of history – long history, 20 years user without objection (for which there is a statutory provision) presumes use since time immemorial (which for the common law is some time in the middle ages). BT like all utilities have rights to place their equipment and apparatus in on over under etc. the highway. And you can’t just appropriate highway land into your garden (or as some people have found, even your house) either no matter for how long you’ve been doing it (no loss by prescription), the best you can do is get a formal licence to plant from the highway authority. Technically anything not consisting of passing and re-passing (parking is considered incidental) is obstruction and a criminal offence, though modern legislation has increased the number of purposes for which licence can be given (pavement tables and chairs for instance). Sadly Parliament usually provides that only costs can be recovered not an open market charge (or no charge at all as for now commercial privatised utilities), always a source of bain to under-resourced local authorities.

    Without such provisions life would be unworkable. They are vague in extent, but absolutely critical.

  8. Avatar raj

    there are some very intelligent responses here and having looked at the difference between Google Earth and the LA print, it is clear the complainant has pinched as much as possible to extend his garden. I wonder if he is going to go after the electricity company for the pole that is in ‘his land’ as well, or the LA for planting a street sign. He has now created a situation where he has potentially devalued his own house by creating a boundary dispute.No purchaser would touch this place until resolution, which I believe could cost him a bundle.He has also got 2 entrances to his property, and I’ll be he never got planning consent for 1 of them.

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