Subsidence Drought Trees

Your home is your castle and it is quite proper to seek to protect what is normally the largest investment you will ever make.

Drought is a Root Cause of Subsidence

Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Partner & Head of Professional Negligence

Recent newspaper reports have highlighted that 2017 could experience a serious drought caused by a hot dry summer and the driest winter in 20 years.  When the ground dries out, it is increasingly prone to movement and shrinkage.  According the British Geological Survey (BGS) shrinking and swelling of the ground (often reported as subsidence) is one of the most damaging geohazards in Britain today.  This shrink swell situation is often exacerbated by trees and shrubs which suck up what little moisture is left in the ground in a bid to stay alive.

What Can I Do To Protect My Home from Subsidence?

Home owners can mitigate the risk themselves by maintaining the trees and shrubs on their property at levels where their “zone of influence” does not extend to under the foundations of their property.  Care must be taken that any trees to be treated are not covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) as this could possibly lead to a breach of the TPO and land you the homeowner legally liable.  Read our article Tree Preservation Orders: The Facts for more information about Tree Preservation Orders and how to deal with them.

However, trees are living organisms and they will sometimes extend their roots beyond the recognised zone in order to source moisture from further afield. Each species of tree has a different recorded zone of influence to the point where a copse containing an Oak, a Willow and an Ash for example will have roots extending for different distances and treatment will need to tailored accordingly.

How Do I Identify Subsidence?

Tell-tale signs of subsidence are:

  • windows and doors sticking on opening and closing
  • diagonal cracking to walls extending from ground level towards the corners of windows or doors
  • cracks which are mirrored inside and out and flow along the line of cement between bricks

If you spot any of these signs you should contact your buildings insurance company immediately.

What Will My Insurance Company Do?

Your insurance company will appoint a loss adjuster to inspect your property and seek to identify the cause of the problem. It may also be necessary to appoint an arborist, soil engineers and a structural engineer if the tree belongs to a third party which will need convincing to remove the cause.

If the tree belongs to you then, subject to any TPO protection, it should be more easily removed although it will also be necessary to assess whether the tree pre-dates the property in which case “heave” where the soil recovers too much and pushes the property higher than it was originally designed for should be considered. In these cases the tree is usually removed in stages to allow recovery of the moisture levels in manageable stages. Often a property will be monitored before and after removal to ensure that the cause has been remove an the property stabilised before repairs are undertaken so these claims can last for months – the sooner the claim is reported the earlier the remedy can be in place.

If the cause is caught early then repairs can be as simple as raking out and replacing the cement but, in more severe cases, the property may have to be underpinned which involves the owners normally having to vacate the property for the duration of the works.

In cases where the cause of the damage is vegetation belonging to a third party, it may be possible to recover the costs of any repairs from that party. Any subsidence claim will be subject to a £1,000 excess if it is the first occurrence.  This is a significant sum for any householder to find and therefore, if this sum and subsequent repairs costs can be recovered, you should appoint Solicitors to deal with the claim.

At MW our specialist Solicitors have many years experience acting for homeowners and their insurers in recovering significant sums from Councils, Housing Associations and other public bodies and private individuals.

If you have insurance, your insurer will cover the costs of an insured peril subject to your policy coverage and adherence to the terms of the contract by the policyholder.  They will then seek to recover the costs of those repairs under its right to step into the shoes of the insured. This removes undue and unnecessary stress from the insured who has already experienced the worry of seeing their property damaged.  At this point MW Solicitors can be instructed by your insurer if you require.

What If I Do Not Have Valid Buildings Insurance?

Where there is no valid insurance, you should look to instruct a Solicitor as soon as possible in order to avoid the potentially costly repairs falling on you personally.

If we can assist we will approach the liable third party for a contribution towards the repair costs at the earliest opportunity.  In the case of private individual owners of the problem tree, it is vitally important that they are placed on notice of the damage as soon as possible.  If they remain unaware of the cause under their control, it is more difficult to convince a Court that they failed to act in a reasonable manner to abate the nuisance.

Subsidence Claims Require Specialist Solicitors

Claims involving subsidence are always a complex combination of Science and the Law.  Taking the correct approach to preparing evidence before the claim is presented will pay dividends and you should always instruct a specialist Solicitor who has experience with the claims process and is capable of dealing with insurers, experts and other third parties.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including homeowners who are worried that their home is suffering or might be at risk from subsidence. If you believe that your property is suffering subsidence damage, it is important to act quickly.

We can help homeowners whose property is damaged through the actions of a third party.  We will explore every legal avenue and our experts in MW’s are not just experienced in the law regarding these matters, but also in the underlying geological and biological causes.

We can advise if you are entitled to bring a claim for the recovery of your insurance excess and any repairs costs and we will act on behalf of your insurer should you wish to instruct a local firm.  We can assist you with any discussions and negotiations with third parties in order to resolve any dispute.  We are keen advocates of mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and we will do all we can to resolve your dispute in a sensitive and cost effective way. 

If you are worried that your home is at risk from subsidence or you need to make a subsidence claim don't delay.  Call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at


A High Court judgment at the end of May 2017 in favour of Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC illustrates how the principle that a journalist must protect their sources has its legal limits.

Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

In the above case the Court ordered the BBC to disclose whether or not its information that Sir Cliff was under investigation by South Yorkshire Police came from Operation Yewtree, which is the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into historic sex offences.

The background to Sir Cliff’s application was neatly summarised by the judgment in this way:

‘On 14th August 2014 his flat in Sunningdale was raided by the South Yorkshire Police (the second defendant - "SYP") seeking material in connection with an investigation of child abuse. Mr Dan Johnson, a journalist working for the first defendant, had been told of the raid in advance, and as a result the BBC was able to be in place to cover it as it happened, which it did with journalists, photographers and a helicopter. It was thus able to broadcast its occurrence more or less concurrently and did so, giving apparently extensive coverage both at the time and subsequently. In due course the police announced that there would be no further investigation into Sir Cliff.’

The judgment was part of a larger High Court case by Sir Cliff against the BBC for alleged breaches of his privacy rights and his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Sir Cliff has argued in his claim that BBC journalist Dan Johnson found out about the existence of an investigation into him from a person involved in, or from a person associated with, Operation Yewtree. Both Sir Cliff and South Yorkshire Police said that Mr Johnson was able to use information about Sir Cliff being the subject of the Yewtree investigation to get more information out of South Yorkshire Police, particularly to provide Mr Johnson with advance information of the raid.

In relation to protecting its source, the BBC pleaded in its Defence to Sir Cliff’s overall claim,

‘The BBC asserts its right and the rights of its reporter Mr Johnson, to withhold information which may lead to the identification of the Confidential Source… and any information tending to identify the Confidential Source, including whether the Confidential Source was from within Operation Yewtree (which is neither confirmed nor denied)…

‘The source was not an open source. The source provided information to Mr Johnson in confidence and on condition that Mr Johnson would protect the source's identity. These are familiar attributes of a confidential journalistic source.’

The importance of protecting a source is recognised by section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. It is also a right protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression). Protecting a source is regarded as a ‘negative right’ for the purposes of Article 10 – ie, a right not to be compelled to provide information.

The European Court of Human Rights explained in the case of Goodwin v United Kingdom (1996) that, ‘… limitations on the confidentiality of journalistic sources call for the most careful scrutiny by the Court,’ and the judge in Sir Cliff’s case took the above into account, although ultimately ruled that Sir Cliff’s matter was not a Goodwin-type case.

The Court when making its decision struck a balance between the journalist’s Article 10 rights and Sir Cliff’s Article 6 right (right to a fair trial) and Article 8 right (right to respect for private and family life). It decided that the risk that the answer to Sir Cliff’s question would lead to the source of the BBC’s information being identified was very low but could not quite be regarded as non-existent. The Court also considered that the information was likely to be something that the source would be uncomfortable with having disclosed (ie, that there would be a ‘chilling effect’). This was diminished however by the fact that Operation Yewtree had already been suggested as the source.

Balanced against the above was the fact that the journalist’s knowledge of the source was of real significance, which will not be fully revealed until the trial of this case. The Court ruled that the information is something that Sir Cliff may well need in order to be able to make his case, or to rebut one of the BBC's defences, or to improve his chances of success. The Court also weighed in the balance that Sir Cliff had a procedural right to the information under normal principles of disclosure. The Judge ruled that, ‘A fair trial, with the benefit of being able to argue that which can legitimately be argued, requires that the question [posed by Sir Cliff] be answered.’

In striking a balance between the above competing points, the Court found that the balance came down clearly in favour of the question being answered.

The lesson for journalists to take from this judgment is that there are limits to how far they can protect their sources.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is “To make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including Journalists and other media professionals who need representation in Court or wish to protect the anonymity of their sources of information.

If you are worried about having to divulge your sources in an impending legal case or need representation talk to one of our team today, call us on 0203 551 8500 or email us at


Business Race

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018 leaving businesses less than 12 months to become compliant with a host of new rules and regulations.

What is New in the GDPR?

Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

The GDPR will:

  • Raise the cap on fines for breaches of data laws from £500,000 to €10,000,000 or 2 per cent of global turnover
  • Apply to data processors not just data controllers
  • Introduce more expansive definitions of data
  • Impose new notification provisions
  • Strengthen the concept of obtaining a data subject’s consent
  • Increase the rights of data subjects
  • Impose other obligations upon businesses.

Is Your Business Ready for GDPR?

The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK watchdog of the data protection regime, has heavily publicised the need for businesses to take steps to ensure that they are compliant. In her YouTube video address to corporate boardrooms, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that there is no time to delay in preparing for

the biggest change to data protection law for a generation’.

She added

‘If your organisation can’t demonstrate that good data protection is a cornerstone of your business policy and practices, you’re leaving your organisation open to enforcement action that can damage both public reputation and bank balance.’

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including businesses trying to keep up with the burden of ever changing legislation imposed upon them.

Our specialist solicitors can assist in re-drafting your data protection policies and procedures, as well as giving direct training to you and your staff via seminars and on-demand advice. We specialise in helping you to navigate through the requirements of the GDPR leaving you to focus on what you do best.

Our team are also expert litigators who specialise in conducting cases on behalf of clients in disputes over data protection and privacy laws. If you are are worried about GDPR compliance or wish to discuss a data protection or privacy dispute call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at

Tug of War

It is becoming more and more common for friends and family members to own property together.  Hayley Prideaux, Solicitor MW's Estate and Trust Dispute Team, discusses the difficulties which can be experienced when joint owners disagree about what to do with a property and how our specialist team can assist to resolve the dispute.

Joint Ownership is a Trend on the Rise

Friends ‘clubbing together’ in order to get onto the property ladder, parents lending money to their child and perhaps their child’s partner to enable them to purchase a property, and siblings inheriting a property under a Will or on an intestacy.  The reasons behind this growing trend are many and varied but joint ownerships often come with a much greater potential for a complex and distressing ownership dispute in future years. 

How Joint Owner Disputes Occur

A dispute may arise when the relationship between joint owners breaks down or when one joint owner wants to sell their share of the property and the other does not want to sell or if they cannot agree the value or size of their share. The more joint owners that are involved the more chance of a dispute occuring.

This often happens when property is inherited under a Will or intestacy and when one owner wants to sell the property and the other wants to keep it. This can be particularly distressful at a time when you are also suffering bereavement and coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

If agreement cannot be reached, a stalemate can arise which may go on for many years, during which, the property must be maintained and other outgoings must be paid for.

Making a TOLATA Claim

Where the joint owners of property cannot agree, any one of them may apply to the Court to resolve the situation.

Applications are made to the Court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA). The Court has wide-ranging powers under the Act and can make an order that the property be sold and/or an order that one party living in the property pays the other owner an occupation rent, if those orders are applied for.

However, there is no guarantee the Court will make such orders where they are applied for.  The Court will take a range of factors into account when deciding whether to make them, such as:

  • the intentions of the parties at the time the property was purchased (if relevant)
  • the purpose for which the property is held
  • the level of rent that would ordinarily be payable on the open market
  • the parties’ respective beneficial interests in the property

We Can Help

At McMillan Williams, our mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including those who find themselves in dispute with a co-owner of a property.  We can act for clients who have inherited a property under a Will or on an intestacy, or who bought a property with a loved one or friend. 

We can advise you as to whether you may be entitled to bring a claim under TOLATA and we can assist you with any discussions and negotiations with your co-owner in order to resolve the dispute. We are keen advocates of mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and will do all we can to resolve your dispute in a sensitive and cost effective way.  Our specialist Estate and Trust Dispute Solicitors are here to offer a helping hand and to guide you though the process of making a claim as quickly and painlessly as possible.  If you would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8550 or email us at

On the 20th May 2017 I took part in the first International Disabled World Cup motorcycle race at the famous Le Mans Circuit in France.

This historic event was an official support race at the HJC sponsored French round of the MotoGP series. As one of the two British racers invited to attend the event, I was excited and honoured to be representing Great Britain in the 600cc category.

Bridgestone Le Mans Grid PhotoPre-race reparation did not go entirely to plan as two weeks before the race, whilst demonstrating at the Donnington Endurance Legends event, I suffered a jammed throttle and went over the front of the bike, spearing myself head first into the gravel. Whilst I wasn’t too badly injured, the bike needed a new fairing and an investigation into why the throttle stayed wide open. After eight frantic days I was heading into the Channel tunnel with a repaired, but untested, race bike on my way to France.

Team Talan MotorsportArriving at Le Mans, the International Bridgestone Handy Race paddock was found to be some distance away from the actual main paddock and pit lane, just outside of the actual Bugatti Circuit and along the 24Hour circuit. Surrounding us were campsites filled with bikes being bounced off the rev limiters non stop. Never before have I seen such a fanatical bunch of petrol heads incessantly feeding engines with fuel and listening to their exhausts bark a cacophony like an orchestra.

Whilst waiting in the transport to get to the track for Practice and Qualifying, we were treated to a thunder and lightening storm that brought hail down so hard the current session was red flagged.

The circuit became wet, really really wet. Our practice began in light rain and that got gradually heavier throughout. Everyone was cautious to begin with, but soon found that the newly surfaced track was giving amazing levels of grip. Having a new fairing changed my sitting position as the race tail piece with hard foam seat covering sat me considerably higher than being on the standard seat piece. The new position put a lot of strain on my wrists, not so much of a problem in the wet as I wasn’t braking hard, but it would be an issue in the dry.

#83 Talan Skeels-Piggins on trackIn our qualifying we were red flagged half way through, the thunderstorm once again brought hail and standing water. Once it was safe we headed back out to finish the session. I was lucky enough to know the Data Engineer from the Mistral Moto2 team, so I was parked outside the garage which offered a bit of shelter.  One of the rider’s dads popped out to offer his thoughts…

Mr Wayne Gardner (1987 500cc World Champion) simply thought we were all mad! At the end of qualifying I was 7th out of 30. A decent position to be in considering my top speed was between 10-20kmh slower than all the other top nine racers.

Later that evening my team and I were able to go back and visit the Mistral Moto2 garage to have about 30 minutes chatting with Wayne, get a good look at the Moto2 bikes, tour around the Tech3 MotoGP garage and finished off by meeting with their rider Karel Abraham. Karel was interested to hear about the racing as well as The Bike Experience (a charity I founded to teach disabled people how to ride motorcycles). It was great to see the interest from all the racers, and ex racers, in what we were doing.

Saturday brought sunshine, clear skies and a crowd of thousands of race fans. The start was a ‘Le Mans’ style grid line up, followed by two lap formation behind a safety car, then eight laps for the chequered flag. In pairs we lined up behind the safety car and I set about warming up my tyres. I was on brand new Bridgestone R10s that were stone cold due to a mechanical failure of the generator. Initially the under-pressure tyres caused me to bounce around and slip under braking.

After the first lap they were beginning to get some heat and the bike began to turn as I expected. At the end of Lap 2 the safety car pulled in, we rolled down towards the start line, all waiting for the Tricolore flag to be waved. The noise of the crowd went through my helmet, my ear plugs and into my very core, it was intense and massively addictive. The flag dropped and we were racing.

As expected, the 1 litre bikes came shooting up past me and the ones in front pulled away. I was cautious with the cold tyres and didn't want to get involved in any fairing bashing at the first chicane. Through the chicane and down to Chapelle the group was slightly spread out, and by the time we went into Garage Vert for the first time, there was a bit of order about the race.

I was gapped by the faster bikes on each straight and was forced into some very late braking in order to catch up. After the third time of locking the front on the brakes I decided it wasn’t going to be safe to continue this style of riding for the race. I went back to what I knew best, smooth riding. The seating position proved to be a problem for me. With a very dry and grippy surface I was able to brake hard, but that meant my backside started lifting from the seat and bouncing me off the centre line of the bike. I do not have stomach muscles, and so the act of trying to straighten myself up on the bike means lots of pulling and pushing on the bars whilst dragging my tummy onto the tank. As a result I cannot simply focus on going fast, as I can’t be sat on the ‘upside’ of the seat in a corner at pace. Nevertheless I enjoyed a decent battle with two litre bikes and another 600.

The chequered flag came earlier than I had expected, as I didn’t see the last lap flag waved to us. Suddenly it was all over, the marshals lined the circuit, the crowds waved and cheered, we all gave thumbs up to the other racers and waved back to the spectators. I was ninth overall from thirty starters. The position translated to fourth in all of the 600s (twenty of us) and second place in the 600cc paralysed class. A very respectable finishing position and one I and be proud of. The victory in my class went to fellow British rider Michael Reynolds, and congratulations go to him.

There were so many memories to treasure: being part of a MotoGP event, getting invitations into Moto2 and MotoGP garages, meeting the racers you see on TV, wheeling out onto the start/finish straight and hearing the cheer of five thousand people. The most important part was that we, the disabled racers, got to show the world that anything is still possible.

My thanks go to you; my sponsors, my supporters, my friends, my family, my fellow racers.

Talan Skeels-Piggins

We Can Help

MW Solicitors are proud to have sponsored Talan Motorsport Racing since 2014 and continue to support the spinal cord injury community by working closely with organisations such as the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) and the Back Up Trust.  Our specialist Personal Injury Solicitors are experts in getting clients the help they need to rebuild their lives after Spinal Injury trauma.

If you would like to speak to a specialist to discuss your case call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at

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