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)