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AU Bitter ups and downs in neighbourly dispute

Property Here - Saturday, April 20, 2013

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John Hare's inclinator on an easement on his property. Picture: Sam Ruttyn.


Mr Hare lives at number 34, Mr Van Brugges lives at number 32. Source: The Daily Telegraph

IT has been a long, uphill battle to resolve a dispute over who can use the inclinator shared between two Harbourside mansions.

For 20 years the millionaire Hare and Van Brugge families lived happily next door to each other, sharing the inclinator on the cliff down to the water and their homes in Seaforth, on Sydney's north shore.

Retiree John Hare, who lives at No.34, owns the 34-year-old electric inclinator as well as the narrow strip of land on which it was built.

Accountant Richard Van Brugge, of No.32, has right of way over Mr Hare's land and believes he should have the use of the inclinator to access his house.

Then came 2011 and the row that took both sides into a marathon Supreme Court tussle, which has led to a judge having to draw up a regime for the warring families to share the inclinator.

It began when workers hired by the Van Brugges to chop down a tree loaded the heavy logs on the carriage, beyond its weight limit.

Mr Hare asked them to stop, because he was concerned about safety.

They didn't, so he turned off the electricity to the inclinator.

A second dispute occurred a short time later, in March 2011, when the Van Brugges told the Hares they wanted to use the inclinator to renovate their house.

The Hares agreed to give the Van Brugges and their workers permission but insisted they be given prior notice of days when it would be doing dozens of trips, loaded with building materials.

"We thought they should tell us when they were doing building works. We'd like to be told when the inclinator would be used all day long by somebody else," Mr Hare said.

The court heard that the right of way, or "easement", across the strip of land was included on land title documents for both Mr Hare and Mr Van Brugge's properties.

But Mr Hare argued in court that Mr Van Brugge was only entitled to use a stairway or his own inclinator on Mr Hare's land.

The Supreme Court and three Court of Appeal judges have ruled in Mr Van Brugge's favour, saying Mr Hare's proposal that Mr Van Brugge supply his own inclinator "carriage" or his own inclinator and track would be "very demanding, if not impossible".

Relations between the neighbours are now so bad that Supreme Court judge Michael Slattery has been forced to draw up a "regime for co-operative use of the inclinator".

Despite losing the appeal, Mr Hare said the Van Brugges had failed to show simple neighbourly courtesy.

He says the judges failed to visit the site.

"We are not happy about it," said Mr Hare, who now faces a loser's legal bill of about $50,000.

"We prefer to spend our life away from them. This ruling just inflicts them on us."

The Van Brugges were unavailable for comment.

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