Planning and legal expert witness

We resolve planning issues by using data from aerial photographs.

How can Air Photo Services help you?

Aerial imagery provides confidential, non-intrusive, dated and accurate information about the landscape, the historic landscape and individual site features. There's an enormous amount of information in archives of specifically dated aerial photographs and we are here to help our clients access that information, either for heritage and planning issues or legal and land use disputes. Your Land is valuable and we understand the commercial pressures on developers and landowners. Our assessments, reports, maps and advice are derived from dated aerial photographs, are accurately interpreted and expertly presented.

Who we advise

Air Photo Services advises planning professionals, developers, solicitors, barristers, consultants and landowners on the optimum uses of aerial photographic evidence for the resolution of surveying access land use and planning issues. We interpret and document the use of land, the presence of paths, access and boundaries, in detail to assist with:

Town and Village Green issues (TVG)
Adverse possession applications
Boundary and landuse disputes
Planning enforcement issues
Public Rights of Way (PRoW)

planning issues

Our work ranges from provision of data for permitted infrastructure developments (roads, rail links and service pipelines) on behalf of UK Engineering, Planning and Heritage consultancies to individual air photo assessments and mapping over single sites or large scale housing and commercial development projects. Knowledgeable advice and authoritative evidence from date-authenticated aerial photographs may help win or resolve a potentially costly or protracted legal case, or secure a planning decision.

Modern and historic aerial imagery provides confidential, accurately dated and non-intrusive information about site and landscape history. Our detailed knowledge of archives containing aerial imagery of the whole of the UK dating from the early 20th century to the present day allows us to search for evidence within the statutory period of most land and planning disputes and applications.

Combining commercial awareness of the land and property sector with realistic project appraisal and professional technical expertise, we provide legally compliant expert witness services and evidence. Our legal services include interpretation of aerial imagery, advice on its use and case appraisal. We provide our expert witness opinion in writing as signed statements and as authoritative expert evidence in chief, given in person at court or in Public Inquiry.

Expert witness services

The duty of an expert witness is to present clear, impartial evidence based on the witness's area of expertise only, in an unbiased and professional manner. An expert should have a recognised qualification and experience in her or his field of expertise and be willing and able to confer and meet with joint or opposing experts should the need arise to discuss evidence, draw up areas of agreement and define issues to be examined or cross examined more closely. Whilst having regard to the issues of the case, an expert should not be biased by opinion, given in statements or otherwise, and should examine the facts and hard evidence pertaining to the issue. We aim to fulfill these obligations.

Expert evidence from aerial photographs has been used widely to resolve land and planning issues, and is routinely present at court, adjudication or Inquiry and used in the mediation and resolution of matters out of court.

what clients and planning inspectors say about us

How we have helped our clients using aerial photographs

access to property - establishing your rights

Establishing a right to park vehicles outside a private property and access a driveway: In August 2015, we interpreted and reported on vertical aerial photos taken in 1995 and were pleased to be able to help a private client, Mr Stephen Leonard who currently lives in China, to resolve an issue regarding the right to park vehicles outside his house in the UK. This helped our client by providing information to the house purchaser to assist the smooth progress of the house sale. Mr Leonard kindly stated that "I found the service provided by Chris and Neil to be very efficient and professional. I recommend them."

vixen tor, devon

Successfully refuting a PRoW Application by The Ramblers across a private landowner's property: Chris interpreted aerial photographs to assist a private landowner to refute a PRoW application over agricultural land at Vixen Tor in Devon. Aerial photography dating back to the 1940s, which was supplied by the English Heritage Archive and Bluesky international Ltd., provided crucial evidence in a long running battle for public access to the historic site on Dartmoor. A Planning Inquiry ruled in favour of the landowner who bought the land around Vixen Tor in 2003, closing off access to the general public. The order to open two paths across the land was made by Devon County Council with support from The Ramblers (formerly the Ramblers Association) and the British Mountaineering Council. Following the recent ruling by the Planning Inspectorate this order has now been rescinded.

Planning Inspector Mark Yates ruled that there was not enough evidence to show continuous use of the paths during the twenty years prior to their closure. He said, “I accept that people have walked to Vixen Tor and used routes through the enclosure. However, I am not satisfied that the evidence of public use presented to the inquiry is sufficient to demonstrate the dedication of this route in common law.”

This was a second inquiry that upheld the rights of farmer Mrs Mary Alford. A previous Inquiry, seen as one of the most important test cases for the Right to Roam legislation, ruled that the public did not have an automatic right of way across the land.

ash lodge drive, surrey

Successfully defending a TVG application for a property developer: In May 2013 Chris provided expert evidence within a specialised team of planning and legal professionals, led by Stephen Morgan of Landmark Chambers, which successfully defended a TVG application by local residents at land known as Ash Meadows in Ash, Surrey, on behalf of developer Bewley Homes Plc. Supported by Air Photo Services Associate Director David Lang and Tracy Michaels, Chris interpreted a range of single aerial images and stereo pairs of vertical aerial photographs to provide a very detailed report on the past land use at the site from over 20 years of historical aerial images derived from several major UK archives. These accurately dated photographs proved that the site was not used consistently over the statutory period or over its full extent for leisure and public access purposes, in contradiction of oral evidence provided by the applicants.
The Planning Inspectors comments: In his report, the Planning Inspector Mr William Webster, who heard examined and cross examined evidence given by Chris over two consecutive days, stated that:

"It is worth reminding ourselves that back in her office Mrs Cox was looking at superior quality prints on good or even the best equipment available for such work. This meant that she was not working with the more rudimentary material which the rest of us had at our disposal in her report bundle. Because of this a great deal of weight should be attached to her conclusions. In my view, her evidence was of considerable value to the inquiry and there can be little doubt that she approached what was a far from easy assignment with the utmost care and objectivity."

Our clients positive feedback to our team at APS stated that the Inspector "was particularly impressed by your evidence, so thank you so much for your help"

News, November 2013 prestbury road (Starvehall Farm) cheltenham, Recent Inspector's Decision November 2013

Defending a TVG application on behalf of a Local Authority In October 2013, Chris presented evidence on behalf of Gloucestershire County Council at Public Inquiry in Cheltenham to assist the Council to defend a Town and Village Green application on land at Prestbury Road. Local residents had claimed that the land had been used consistently over 20 years for dog walking and recreation. The question of on and off-path use is a difficult and often contentious issue, as is non-specific recreational use. Working with a legal team led by Vivian Chapman QC and supported by the Council's lawyers, valuers and advisors, Chris interpreted aerial photographs, provided a report on the use of the land over the 20 year statutory period and assisted a positive result for the Council at Inquiry.