I can give you
some general guidance. If you have enjoyed unhindered access WITHOUT CONSENT or
objection and not in secret for 20 years and can prove that, then regardless
what the deeds say, you have acquired in all probability a Prescriptive
Easement which enables you to carry on using the access.
The same thing
applies to the overhanging roof.
If you have
indeed acquired the right of access then any interference with that must be
substantial and I think it be very difficult for anyone to argue that a locked
gate was not a substantial interference. It is a pedestrian access, would be
sufficient for them to let you have a key.
You would have
had to use the access on a regular and frequent basis and not simply for the
odd bit of maintenance now and again.
Whether you have
acquired a prescriptive easement therefore comes down to how much use you
previously enjoyed and under what circumstances.
With regard to
access for maintenance which appears to be your main priority, the neighbours
are unable to refuse this and if they do, you are entitled to seek an
injunction under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act and ask the court to award
costs against the neighbour. You can do that for any access you require in
order to "preserve" your property.
The property is
presumably registered at the land registry and there may be references to
rights of way or easements or conveyances and without seeing the land registry
deeds, it is very difficult to know which documents you would need.
It would also be
worthwhile getting the neighbour's land registry title deeds which you can get
for 3 pounds here https://eservices.landregistry.gov.uk/www/wps/portal/!ut/p/b1/04_SjzS0tDQwMTIxMjLXj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKNjSxMDA1NjDwsjM3MDTxN3dyNDUNMjQ1MjPWDU_P0c6McFQH3SLFU/
as a general rule
you will need any transfers or conveyances referred to.
Once you have all
those, would probably be quicker to sit down with a solicitor who can, if
appropriate, write a strongly worded letter to the neighbour.
Does that answer
the question. Can I assist any further?
I am happy to
follow up any individual point you make
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