Hedge-fund manager loses £150,000 legal bet on square

It must rank as one of the most expensive neighbourly disputes in history: a hedge fund manager and her lawyer husband face a bill of around £150,000 after failing in a legal bid to secure access to the exclusive garden square outside their west London home.

Mina Gerowin Herrmann, 58, and her husband, Jeffrey, 64, went to the High Court after they were locked out of the garden square, claiming that their lawyers had "assured" them that they would be allowed access prior to their buying the property in 2008.

The Herrmanns laid out more than £130,000 in legal fees, but the judge, Sir William Blackburne, threw out their case yesterday, calling their argument "ingenious but wrong". Their opponents' costs were put at around £40,000, and the Herrmanns, both US citizens, now face having to foot the majority of the bills.

The couple were said to have "seized the opportunity" of moving to Ovington Square in Kensington in 2008 because they had "long wanted" to live in central London.

The Herrmanns are said to have spent a great deal of time researching Victorian statutes and arcane rules relating to the city's garden squares, described by the judge as "one of London's glories".

Their property does not have a garden of its own, but the Herrmanns claimed that under a 160-year-old statute, they were entitled to a share of the nearby lozenge-shaped locked garden because of its proximity to their house. They pointed out that a portion of their property jutted out slightly from the front of the house next door, meaning that at least a few inches of it "front" on to the garden. But the judge ruled that "irrelevant", adding that exclusive access rights to the gardens only belong to residents whose homes "encompass" and front on to them.

The judge noted that "the existence of garden right adds considerably to the value of those properties which enjoy it".

Sir William added: "Situated typically in the middle of the square and fronted by terraced houses on each side of the square, the garden provides a haven of greenery and tranquillity amid the bustle of the neighbouring urban environment."

He added that, although the Kensington Improvement Act of 1851 did not specifically define what was meant by a "square", whatever its shape, it "must be of a kind which, with its attendant garden, the average man in the street would have no difficulty in recognising".

And he concluded his judgment, saying: "Since the front or side of No 37 does not face the square in the sense intended, it follows that the Herrmanns, as occupiers of that property, do not enjoy the garden right that they claim."

Sir William added that, if he had found for the Herrmanns, he would "risk upsetting" the status quo in many of London's garden squares, effectively granting access rights to residents of outlying streets who had not contributed to their maintenance.

In addition to their claim against the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the couple also unsuccessfully sued the Ovington Square Garden Committee because it had refused to make a key to the garden available to them and they wanted damages for nuisance.

Mr and Mrs Herrmann moved to London from New York State, where they married in 2000. Mrs Herrmann is the MD of the investment bank Paulson Europe. Announcing their nuptials, The New York Times added that Mr Herrmann's previous marriage had ended in divorce.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative / Forklift Driver

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Through a combination of excell...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific