4 December 2009

Why Does The Open Spaces Society Need An Office?


Kate Ashbrook runs the Open Spaces Society from a building in rather posh Henley on Thames. 

It's an irony that's delicious.  For an outfit called the Open Spaces Society to have an office building is reminiscent of Lord Sutch, when he demanded to know why there was only one Monopolies Commission.

That's a picture of Screaming Lord Sutch, not of some member of the Open Spaces Society who's just heard that someone wants to build something.

The Campaign for Real Village Greens was the subject of its first smear this week.  In a comment to readers of Planning Blog, the General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society made a claim that the Campaign for Real Village Greens website "contains much misleading information".

We have written to the OSS and asked them to back up that statement.  We have also asked what message they have for people who have lost their property - sometimes property representing their life savings -  through modern claims of so-called town or village greens.


The Planning Blog article 'Battle lines drawn in "village green" debate' can be read here.

The website of the Campaign for real Village Greens can be reached here.

1 December 2009

What's Sarah Palin Got To Do With The Fake Village Green Scam In England?


All of today's article concerns Bristol, a place in south west England noted for its university, diversity, and engineering feats.

A message of support arrived from another high-profile local community leader - this time Helen Holland of the above town.  Helen is leader of the Labour Group on the council there:
'I am forwarding this [i.e. the Campaign for Real Village Green website details] to various contacts, both within the City Council and outside, who are all equally frustrated at the misuse of this legislation.'
What has been striking is the lack of political bias in the various correspondence received.  Support for the Campaign - and its goal of exposing the great village green swindle - has come in from all of the main political parties.

One recent, and startling, so-called 'village green' application has been put in as an artificial device to stop Bristol City FC and its supporters from making progress.  Bristol City Football Club wants to build a replacement, modern stadium, but a fake village green application has been lodged by somebody in order to thwart the new development.

Once again, the applicant does not own the property s/he is trying to claim and, once again, a few dog walkers - who are basically trespassing with pooches on someone else's property - want to take precedence over the needs of everybody else in the area.

Finally, British readers may be wondering why former US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin features in the picture.  Be puzzled no longer.  That's Bristol Palin on the right, and it's not our fault her parents chose that name.  How little did they know that, eighteen years later, she would feature in an article helping to expose the fake village green industry in England.

What Gets Measured, Gets Done



One thing that often surprises newcomers to bogus village greens is its wasteful ‘money no object’ feature.

At present, the great village green swindle seems immune to any concern in government over the costs of it.

An example of this was presented to the nation on 28 October 2009, as a result of Tom Levitt MP tabling the following question in Parliament:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the number of approved planning developments which have not proceeded pending resolution of applications to register land as a town or village green in the last five years."

The reply revealed a hidden, deeply unsatisfactory situation.  The government has no idea whatsoever.  Minister Mr. Ian Austin gave its reply:
"This information is not collected centrally. While we do not have evidence that this is a widespread problem, we are aware of specific cases where this has occurred and the impact it can have on development. My officials are currently working with those in DEFRA to consider what changes to the current system may be required."
The Campaign's website has therefore been updated with an added page: 'The Waste Involved'. 



Image used: 'Money to Burn' by Victor Dubreuil (1880-1910)

30 November 2009

The name's Nimby. James Nimby




Pinewood Studios is the latest victim of the fake village green ploy.  The studios, home to James Bond movies as well as many other iconic film successes, were covered by a Times of London report on Saturday 28 November:
'However, residents are not resting on their laurels. One, a Mrs Parsons, has applied to register land at Pinewood Fields and The Clumps — owned by the studios — as a village green. The tactic is based on a law conceived in the 19th century. If successful, the application would stop Pinewood’s plans in their tracks.'

School Report


Among messages of support from people's elected representatives up and down the country, the Campaign for Real Village Greens website received an email from Derbyshire County Councillor Alan Charles.  This gave details of the public money, supposed to be spent on educating our young people, that instead is wasted on pandering to the spurious 'village green' industry:
'The first case was on a site where we have now built a new primary school for the children of Clay Cross. The new school had vast popular support of the local community, replacing 3 old and worn out schools. The project was held up for around 18 months by a very small group of people (around 6) submitting a village green application... This delay added £370,000 to the build cost of the school and considerable legal costs. This is money that could have provided further much needed improvements at other Derbyshire schools.'
Councillor Charles then refers to another education-related case in Derbyshire, this time in Buxton:

'The building of a desperately needed sports Hall for St Thomas More School. The funding was dependent on the sale of a piece of land that was of no use to the school or the community. The land was going to be used to build houses in an area that is always under pressure on housing supply. The Council agreed to fund the building of the sports hall so long as it was underwritten by the Nottingham Roman Catholic Diocese (who are responsible for this school) subject to the satisfactory sale of the land. After two years the application was dismissed because it did not meet the required criteria. However the same applicant has now submitted a second village green application on a larger piece of land that includes the original site. Thus, the whole process has to start again.

'This legislation really is working against the democratic process and the will of local people at the behest of a very small group of individuals. It must stop!!'

26 November 2009

Sarah Mukherjee in Deepest Buckinghamshire

We've been trying to get away from the case of the mysterious Buckinghamshire BBC interview, about nimbys and spurious so-called village greens, but can't.

It has become curiouser and curiouser.

We wanted Sarah Mukherjee, the corporation's much respected environment correspondent who reported live on the issue yesterday morning, to answer a few questions about it.  So far, we haven't been able to.  In the picture, she is front of camera on one of her earlier assignments.

When Sarah handed back from Buckinghamshire to the Today studio for Thought for the Day, John Humphreys sounded surprised and quizzical.  But this turned out to be because the weather was nice.

One so-called 'village green' was featured in the BBC interview.  Sarah announced it as being at Forty Green, Bucks.  The land at that location is shown labelled 'Exhibit A' in the photographs m'lud.

However, there is a different so-called 'village green' not far away.
And next to this land - property shown in 'Exhibit B' - some poor fool had hoped they might build a bungalow. 

The nimby device of claiming that somebody's property is a 'village green' was rapidly wheeled out.

Someone wants to build a home?  This poor deluded fool dares to think - to dream - he might one day be able to build a bungalow?  On his own land?  Seize him!

This case also happens to be in Bucks, at the corner of Coppice Farm Rd and Hazlemere Road in Penn.  However, it wasn't visited for the BBC interview.  Which is a shame, because they would have learned something if they'd gone there.

William Worsley, president of the Country Land and Business Association, perceptively used the expression 'spurious village green' in the live interview.  Sarah Mukherjee, who is a good journalist with an excellent sense of humour, should probably expect to be hearing the words 'spurious village green' quite a lot more in the future.


25 November 2009

John Humphreys Learned A Thing Or Two


Coinciding with the launch of the Campaign For Real Village Greens - and its goal of exposing the great village green swindle - BBC's flagship Today programme gave coverage of the same issue this morning.

Two much loved institutions came together: the BBC, and the genuine, traditional honest English village green.  (Three, if you count Mr Humphries.)

William Worsley, who is president of the Country Land and Business Association, and Kate Ashbook were interviewed live on air .  Here is the BBC's own heading for the item, taken from Today's page for Wednesday 25 November 2009 on the BBC website:
'07:46  The system of registering village greens is being used by 'not in my backyard' villagers wanting to register land to avoid it being built on. Environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee reports from the village of Penn, Buckinghamshire.'
What was not made clear before the handback to Mr Humphreys is that 'the villagers' are claiming somebody else's property.  The land in question is owned by - yes, it belongs to - a third party.

Under the great village green swindle, property owners are given no opportunity for reasonable negotiation, or indeed any negotiation.  No compensation is paid.

Ms Ashbrook represented the Open Spaces Society in this interview.  She sounded very defensive, like a witness at a poisoning trial who'd just been found out.  Looking at an example of a nearby alleged 'village green', it soon became clear why.  That is it, below on the right.

In the real world, they call them 'road verges':






The particular spurious so-called 'village green' above is at Coppice Farm Rd in Penn, Bucks.  For more information on the great village greens swindle in general, see the Campaign For Real Village Greens website.

24 November 2009

First Abuse Received - World Record Time

The website of the Campaign For Real Village Greens hasn't even been propagated yet - only went 'live' a few hours ago - and already we've received our first abuse.  The honour goes to Councillor Ivan Bell, who lives in Old Glossop.  He's the one on the left in the picture:



Free speech is precious, so we don't mind reproducing Cllr Ivan's email.
Here is what he said:

'Misleading and Scurrilous Site - The content is obviously written by Planners, developers and doggy politicians.
eg.MP Tom Levitt claimed £19.99 expenses for a hair drier when he has no hair to speak of.
Fails to say that these applicants are normally local heroes who are well supported by the public'.

Editor's note:
'Doggy' is presumably an error, intending to mean 'Dodgy'.  Not even the Daily Telegraph has managed to expose any 'doggy politicians'.  Although one DEFRA minister has reportedly been seen in a steamed-up Capri in a public car park at night...


Here Is The Blog, There Is The Website

This is the first entry - Tuesday 24 November 2009 - in the blog in support of The Campaign For Real Village Greens.

The blog may be a little more irreverent and entertaining than the campaign website, which deals with the serious business of exposing the great village green swindle.

If you have not seen it already, please view the Campaign For Real Village Greens website:


The Campaign For Real Village Greens will continue until the law is changed and the shameful travesty of spurious modern so-called 'village greens' - using property that belongs to involuntary third parties and usually looking nothing whatsoever like a village green - is brought to an end.