Will mediation become compulsory in neighbour disputes?
It is well known that the Court encourages parties in all disputes to consider settlement at every stage and that mediation has become more popular as a means of resolving disagreements.
Mediation can offer solutions a trial judge cannot and therefore particularly helpful in disputes between neighbours, where entrenched positions are often of little benefit to either party.
This week (Bradley v Heslin  EWHC 3267 (Ch) ) the High Court has reiterated its concern "that anyone should pursue a neighbour dispute to trial, where even the victor is not a winner…given the blight which a contested case casts over the future of neighbourly relations"
Making mediation compulsory brings with it a raft of problems and is therefore unlikely. In Bradley the Court felt a mandatory that a 2 month stay of any proceedings between neighbours for the parties to consider mediation should be considered. The Court did not think that leaving the decision up to the parties was enough, even with the severe cost penalty which can apply when a party refuses to consider mediation.
It is therefore vital to consider, at the start of any dispute with a neighbour and for a number of reasons, whether it is possible to discuss and resolve the matter in person before the involvement of solicitors. The importance of considering mediation in emotionally charged disputes cannot be emphasised enough. The outcome is often better for all than proceeding to trial and all that involves.