An artist who was accused of fraud in an attempt to block her neighbours’ plans for an extension to their £20million house has been cleared by a judge.
Brenda Fenton, 87, was accused by Clive and Marsha Lewis of doctoring a property plan to claim a boundary wall separating their properties as hers.
The forgery was said to be part of a single-minded quest to stymie the Lewises’ plans in a feud which has gone on for 21 years.
Brenda Fenton, 87, left, was accused by Clive Lewis and his wife Marsha of doctoring a property plan to claim a boundary wall which separated their two homes
The neighbours live in Cavendish Avenue, a street in St Johns Wood which they share with former Beatle, Paul McCartney.
The case was heard at Central London country court last month and now, after taking time to consider his ruling, Judge Nicholas Parfitt has rejected the fraud claim against Mrs Fenton.
Although there was circumstantial evidence against her, Mrs Fenton denied the allegation ‘with an understandable degree of upset’, he said.
And there were others who could have added the so-called ‘T-mark’ – a symbol used to show who owns a boundary wall, he added.
Mr Lewis and his wife live in this £20 million home in St John’s Wood in North London
Ms Fenton, who lives in this house, was cleared of accusations of fraud by a judge in the Central London County Court relating to a feud which lasted 21 years
‘My finding is that I am not persuaded that Mrs Fenton was responsible or party to the addition of the disputed T-mark to the plan,’ he ruled.
During an earlier hearing, the court heard Mrs Fenton had been friendly with her famous ex Beatle neighbour, but the relationship with the Lewises was less cordial.
The first disputes between them occurred in the late 1990s and since then they have frequently been matched up in court battles.
In 2005, Mrs Fenton lost a case brought against her by her neighbours over her installation of fence panels on the shared garden wall.
But she won the next battle in 2015 when a judge ordered the Lewises to remove a roof from which water had flowed from their extension onto her property.
That case left the Lewises nursing over £250,000 in legal bills.
Surveyor Mr Lewis, 65, and his interior designer wife, also 65, have since taken down the roof, but now plan to build a two-storey extension instead.
They claim the enlarged structure would finally solve the rainwater problem.
Last year, an independent surveyor issued a Party Wall Award, which authorises them to raise the boundary wall to build their extension.
But that only led the neighbours back to court, as Mrs Fenton launched a challenge to the surveyor’s decision.
Her barrister, Stuart Frame, claimed that the Party Wall Award should be overturned as the wall in question is not actually shared.
But for the Lewises, Philip Rainey QC, said Mrs Fenton should not be allowed to argue that the wall is not a jointly owned party wall.
She had agreed informally through solicitors 21 years ago that the boundary runs down the middle of the wall, Mr Rainey told the judge.
She had also withdrawn an appeal against a previous Party Wall Award and stood by ‘in silence’ while the original extension was built off the wall, he claimed.
Ruling, Judge Parfitt said Mrs Fenton would not be allowed to argue that the boundary between the properties does not run down the middle of the wall.
‘The predominant factor is that she has acted in a manner which is only consistent with an objective representation that the boundary runs through the centre of the lower part of the disputed wall,’ he said.
He added: ‘If it were necessary to describe the position from Mrs Fenton’s point of view, it would be a reluctant acceptance of a reality with which she continued to disagree.’
The judge’s decision means Mrs Fenton cannot dispute that the wall is shared in any appeal against the Party Wall Award.