28 September 2010

"This is not the England I was born into"

Further to the most recent post, concerning the Bristol stadium and regeneration fake village green case, a comment was received from Julie (no surname given).  It is worth re-printing in its entirety:

Please let me make certain that I understand what has happened here.
Thousands of local people want the stadium and the regeneration.
The democratically elected council wants the stadium and the regeneration.
The landowner wants the stadium and the regeneration.
But some dog walkers have gone onto the person's land, as trespassers, so their dogs can c**p on that person's property.
Then some inspector or other says that claims of suchlike activities make the property a village green.
The owner's property is then effectively confiscated.
Sorry, but this is not the England that I was born into.
Note: the picture is of  a real village green.  This genuine one is at Wisborough, in Sussex

27 September 2010

'Village green' scammers succeed in their biggest con-trick yet

The City of Bristol's proud regeneration plans, including one of the modern stadiums for England's football World Cup bid, lie in ruins.

Democratic, transparent and fully accountable, this proposed regeneration scheme had already achieved the necessary planning permission.  This is no mean feat.

But then a few unaccountable activists, wanting to preserve 'their' views (and their nice middle-class house prices) resorted to the now familiar tactic of claiming that somebody else's privately-owned property is a 'village green'.  By doing so, they have caused utter chaos and halted the local regeneration.

The damage to jobs and the hard-pressed local economy by the claim in this case is estimated at from £90 million to £300 million, according to whose calculation you prefer.

Here are a few key issues highlighted by this latest perversion of the village green laws of England.  The so-called 'village green' in question here is:
  • 42 acres.  Many complete villages in England don't amount to 42 acres in area, never mind their local (ancient and genuine) village green.
  • Going to be registered (as things currently stand) on the basis of only 22 people who gave verbal statements about the 'village green' claim.
  • Recommended for registration as a 'village green' despite the people who gave verbal statements not being placed under oath or any similar warning.
  • Supported by the non-statutory 'independent'  inspector in this case, Ms Ross Crail.  Ms Crail acted in support of the Ramblers Association in their most prominent recent case.  Among other things, the Ramblers Association promotes public access to privately-owned property.

1 July 2010

It's Those People Off The Telly

Well-known television personalities are the latest people to fall victim to the fake village green scam.
Kevin McCloud, presenter of Grand Designs among other excellent programmes, is still having to cope with nimby spurious ‘village green’ nutters, despite his new scheme winning almost universal praise.

His case is in Gorse Hill, Swindon. Fortunately, some of the people opposing the new homes seem a few vouchers short of a toaster. Here is how the Swindon Advertiser reported the state of play on 22 June 2010:

'Josie Lewis, 57, who has led the campaign against the proposed £19m 200-home development, said the council’s claim that the land was not eligible to be registered as a town green was based on false evidence.

Miss Lewis, who has a house in Tiverton Road that backs on to Kembrey Grass, said: “A decision cannot be made on disputed evidence.

“We will maintain our fight to save this field for public use. The Open Spaces Society has written to the council urging them to reconsider our application on the grounds of disputed evidence.

“This is a much-used amenity and it is disgraceful that the council has refused our application when the evidence was clearly disputed.

“Open spaces can also only be developed if the majority of the community is in favour of it and it is clear in this case that they are not”.'

Another public figure to fall victim to the swindle is Deborah Meaden. She is one of the stars of Dragon’s Den, and also author of Common Sense Rules.

Here is how the so-called Open Spaces Society (it is based in a building) described their 'triumph' in stopping homes:

'Barbara Clark, our member at Brixham, is delighted that a public-inquiry inspector has recommended Torbay Council to register the three-acre Wishings Field as a green. The inspector, land-law barrister William Webster, recommended that the land should be registered, in the face of objections from the landowner, Mudstone LLP, one of whose partners is the TV Dragons’ Den judge Deborah Meaden. The objectors argued that the land had been used as an informal recreation area for guests of a nearby holiday park, and that the public had been turned off, but the inspector found some of their evidence to be ‘unreliable’ and ‘inherently implausible’. Planning permission had been granted for 48 houses, but will they now be built?'

13 June 2010

Some Facts Behind A Threatening Legal Letter

The Campaign For Real Village Greens has received a letter from a Head of Legal Services which started "I am instructed to write to you on behalf of New Charter Housing Trust Ltd in relation to an article...".  It concerned the 'The Neighbour From Hell?' article and continued: 
"I am instructed to advise you that the use of the photograph of Mr Kibble and one of the Company's logos are considered an infringement of the Company's copyright."
 The 'fair dealing' and 'de minimis' defences, among several others, against any such allegation of infringement should be enough to ensure that this threat goes no further.  However, the fact that the threat was made in this case - and made urgently (within 72 hours) - shows that being associated with spurious village greens can often touch a nerve.

The case of the threatening legal letter also helps to highlight just some of the key problems relating to the new industry of modern spurious 'village green' claims:

The 'Any person may make a claim' issue

Anyone, literally anyone, may make a claim that somebody else's privately-owned property is a 'village green'.  It seems mad, and it is certainly grossly unfair and unjust, but that is the situation under the law as it stands today.

For example Mr Alan Kibble, mentioned in the threatening letter from New Charter, only moved to the area where he has claimed a 'village green' a matter of months before sending the claim form in.  He had no personal knowledge of the land for any reasonable length of time.

This is very common and applies to a lot of these claims.

There is no fee or charge for sending in one of these claim forms.  Again, totally mad but true.

The 'Being a reasonable landowner leads you to being punished' issue

In a case in which New Charter itself is currently threatened with effectively losing property in a spurious 'village green' case, its spokesman David Rigby pointed out:
"New Charter has maintained this land for recreational use for people who live nearby and in association with the housing we provide.  Although we applied for planning consent to build some more social housing on a small area of the site which we own, we have no proposals to develop further."
However, in an attempt to prevent homeless people having a roof over their heads, or additional people enjoying the help that social and affordable housing provides, Stephen Hilton (pictured) has sent in a claim that the New Charter land is a so-called 'village green'.

The case is at Hazelhurst Road in Ashton-under-Lyne.

The selfishness in the spurious village green industry

It is fair comment, relevant to these matters, to point out that Mr Hilton and his spurious 'village green' claim friends don't mind taking the benefits of social/ affordable housing for themselves.

It is other people that they want to prevent having the benefits.

The Hazelhurst Road case helps to illustrate that the essence of nimbyism is selfishness and lack of pity for others in a worse situation than themselves.

9 June 2010

Next Media Coverage

The nice people at You and Yours (BBC Radio 4) are planning their latest feature on the modern spurious 'village green' scandal.  At the time of writing, it is scheduled for broadcast this coming Friday 11 June 2010.  The programme starts at 12 noon

Legal State Of Play, At Start of New Parliament

In Local Government Lawyer on 26 April 2010, Paul Denholm examined the increasingly common practice of invoking ‘village greens’ laws as a means of thwarting planned and legitimate development. Many of the claims that a property is a 'village green' are completely spurious.  Here is an edited extract from the excellent article:

Local activists opposed to developments are increasingly gaining the whip-hand with frivolous 'village green' applications, claiming recreational use of land that is part of development sites. It is a highly effective tactic.

The claims are cheap and easy to make without the applicant having to give any undertaking for damages, as would be the case, for example, if an injunction were being sought through the courts to enforce a restrictive covenant.

The opponents of development make extensive use of social networks and websites to help them gain support for the registration of a Town and Village Green application.

A recent study by Defra of 48 Town and Village Green applications revealed that, in all 48 cases, the application for Town and Village Green status would have jeopardised the ability to develop the site. In the successful cases, legitimate development plans would have been permanently stopped, including schemes driven by local authorities such as leisure facilities, employment generating developments, regeneration and affordable housing.

The impact of registering a claim is always damaging. At best, an application can delay a local authority’s regeneration scheme or other development. At worst, a successful registration will put an end to the scheme. It will usually cost a fortune in legal fees.

What’s more the local authority and its partner developer could have incurred huge costs on an abandoned scheme and be left with land of little value. The local authority may also suffer colossal embarrassment for non-delivery of a regeneration scheme and its associated social and economic benefits.

Successful applications have resulted in town or village green registrations over beaches, wasteland and highway verges.

Recent high profile examples of this activity have generated media interest and public debate. Many applications have been highly contentious. The highest court in the land has considered the law relating to the registration of new town or village greens on four occasions in the last 10 years, with decisions in R v Oxfordshire County Council v Sunningwell Parish Council [2000] 1 AC 335; R (on the application of Beresford) v Sunderland City Council [2004] 1 AC 889; Oxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council [2006] 2 AC 674; R (on the application of Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council & anor [2010] UKSC 11 on 3 March 2010.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Redcar case, a line of legal authority was being developed by the courts to restrict the registration of new town or village greens.

According to this line of authority, if there was a material conflict between the recreational use of land by a significant number of the inhabitants of an area, and that recreational use ‘deferred’ to that of the landowner, that recreational use did not meet the statutory requirement in s15 of the Commons Act that such use be ‘as of right’.  This is because it did not have the outward appearance to the landowner of the assertion of a legal right. However, in the Supreme Court’s decision in the Redcar case, it was held that ‘deference’ by recreational users does not prevent recreational use from accruing use ‘as of right’.

As a result of this recent decision, landowners will need to take active measures to exclude trespassing recreational users and/or mitigate and manage their risks by ensuring that access to the site is by permission only.

If the number of applications to register town or village greens continues to thwart developments in increasing numbers, it is conceivable that this will force a review and eventual reform of the law.

Defra has already stated that it proposes consulting on whether there is a need for reform of the town and village green registration system, and the options for reform that exist.

Paul Denholm is First Title’s expert underwriter in this field. He is also a planning lawyer who has worked in local government in England and Wales, as well as internationally

8 June 2010

New Housing Minister Must Continue His Good Track Record Now He Is In Power

Dare we hope that the shameful antics of modern fake 'village green' merchants, who since 1999 have disgraced this once-glorious icon of England, are finally going to be brought to an end?

Nobody is against the traditional, honest English village green.  They are in no way under threat.  However the modern fake 'village green' claimants tie up property owners and local councils alike in endless red tape, as well as causing countless social damage and financial costs.

The new Housing Minister is Grant Shapps MP (pictured right).  When he was Shadow Minister, he asked the following very pertinent question in Parliament:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for High Peak (Tom Levitt) of 14 December 2009, whether the planned consultation on registration of village greens will consider restrictions on the ability to register a village green."
Restrictions on the ability to make a claim that somebody's property is a 'village green' (anybody can do it, the way the law has stood since 1999) are long overdue.

We have all seen from Yes Minister the tactics that civil servants and populist unaccountable lobby groups use to obstruct newly elected politicians.

Where the great village green swindle is concerned, please let the honourable Grant Shapps be made of sterner stuff.

7 June 2010

The Neighbour From Hell?

Alan Kibble has been seen on TV, featuring quite a lot in the BBC programme Neighbourhood Watched and making media appearances in connection with publicity for the programme.

Working for a registered social landlord (a housing association in plain English) Alan Kibble laid down the law on screen to bad neighbours and 'neighbours from hell'.  Alan Kibble is an enforcement officer from New Charter Housing Trust and has attended the Prince’s Trust team as a development coach.

However, one of Mr Kibble's neighbours might not share such a rosy view of him.  Alan Kibble has put in a claim that the neighbour's privately-owned property is a 'village green'.

As a result of Mr Kibble's claim form sent to the council, the neighbour looks set to have his property effectively taken off him with no compensation.

The property is in the area called Heyrod, in Tameside, Greater Manchester.  New Charter Housing Trust Group is also based in Tameside.

The decision-maker in this matter is Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council.  Tameside MBC is not neutral, being the former owner of much of New Charter's housing business and working closely with New Charter and its staff on a daily basis.

A small, unincorporated and unelected association of individuals calling themselves 'Heyrod Residents Association' has the ear of local councillors and, through them, the decision-maker council.

On the claim form that looks like it might now result in the property owner effectively being deprived of his land, Mr Kibble describes himself as Deputy Chairman of Heyrod Residents Assocation.  He gives his contact email address on his claim form as Alan.Kibble@newcharter.co.uk


New Charter Housing Trust Ltd's Head of Legal Services has written on 11 June 2010 offering a view that the above logo in this blog article is 'considered an infringement of the company's copyright'.  As a result of that letter, the following note is added:  The incidental reproduction of this item (the above small logo) is in no way for commercial gain; if there is an infringement it is clearly a minor infringement; it has no independent economic significance whatsoever; and it is reproduced here for the legitimate purposes of review and criticism.  Use of the above small logo in this particular context is in the legitimate public interest.

New Charter Housing Trust Ltd's Head of Legal Services has written on 11 June 2010 offering a view that an image of Alan Kibble in this blog article is 'considered an infringement of the company's copyright'.  As a result of that letter, the following note is added:  The use of this item (an image of Alan Kibble) is in no way for commercial gain; if there is an infringement it is clearly a minor infringement; it has no independent economic significance whatsoever; and an image of Alan Kibble is reproduced here for the legitimate purposes of review and criticism.

Use of the above image of Alan Kibble in this specific context is clearly in the legitimate public interest.

14 May 2010

A Farewell To Nonsense?

Now that a new government is being formed - more junior ministers will be announced today - DEFRA's old website has been suspended and a new one will shortly be under construction.

DEFRA has, until now, been the government department responsible for the village green law of England and Wales.  Caroline Spelman is the new Secretary of State.

The ideologues and zealots who inhabited parts of New Labour and DEFRA, along with their friends at unaccountable pressure goups and lobbying outfits like the so-called Open Spaces Society, meant that the acronym DEFRA stood for Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Activity.

Affordable housing for ordinary working people, and much needed community facilities in villages and towns, have become vulnerable targets for their anti-development "let's pretend this is a village green" antics and nonsense.

When Parliament has settled in, the Campaign for Real Village Greens will bring MPs' attention to the scandal of the effective theft of people's property, and the charter for grossly unreasonable nimbys, that is the disgraceful current legislative mess concerning the formerly glorious concept of the English village green.

The modern decline into chaos and bad law started with a House of Lords opinion, given in 1999.  This most peculiar of judgements became known as Sunningwell.  In legal terms, it was a floodgates case.

The judicial appeal role of the House of Lords has recently been abolished.  All decent people will hope the dog's breakfast that they have created over spurious modern so-called 'village greens' will not be far behind.

18 March 2010

News From Bizarro World

The Campaign received news in its in-box today representing further proof that the modern fake village greens industry belongs in some kind of surreal parallel universe.  Perhaps Alice in Wonderland or Through The Looking Glass.

The news concerned a new insurance product.  Insurance against your property being an English village green!

The wider fraternity of lawyers is catching on to the the reality of these bogus 'greens'.  Here is an extract - entirely accurate in its analysis - from the introductory leaflet for this new product from the First Title insurance company:
"It is anticipated that in the coming years more and more village green applications will be made with the sole purpose of blocking unwanted developments. Many of these will have no basis in law or fact and will be purely speculative applications, however, even a spurious application will be expensive and time consuming to deal with."
Everybody knows what the real, genuine English village green looks like.  Accordingly, we wish that this was an early April Fool's day article.  Sadly, it isn't.

For further information on this product email comm.team@firsttitle.eu or kmills@firsttitle.eu quoting 'insurance against village green claims'.

17 March 2010

The Sewage Works Village Green

A large fuss has been caused by the exposure of one fake village green in particular.

The big concrete and brick structure in question has been described as a sewage works: to be totally factually correct it's recorded on the deeds as an effluent works and effluent settlement beds.  However, it is still not a village green, whatever it's called.

The whole story is told in the forthcoming book The Village Green Preservation Society.  It's both shocking and occasionally hilarious.

In the meantime, here is the sewage /effluent settlement works on the day of the BBC You and Yours visit to New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire, England:


Local horse and pony riders in particular will miss this land once it is registered as a so-called town/village green: taking an animal onto the property will be prohibited once registration takes place.  The maximum fine for each offence after registration is level 1 on the standard scale.

Should dog walkers attempt to access the land after the registration and consequent animals prohibition takes place, they will then find either that they are subject to the relevant court proceedings and fines or that other, larger local dogs are territorial.  This is entirely in accordance with nature (the interactions between dogs on the same property we mean, not proceedings of a local court).

For very many years the above animal lovers of the locality or neighbourhood within the locality have had permission from the owner to go onto the land.  This also applies to other local people where lawful sports and pastimes are concerned.  However, the property has become subject to three town or village green applications.

An honest and co-operative approach, with the majority of local people working in harmony with the landowner, to create a permanent large local nature reserve, is the obvious, reasonable and proper way forward in this case.

This common-sense and harmonious way of doing these things often seems to be deplored by some at the so-called Open Spaces Society and their fellow travellers.

10 March 2010

She Can See For Miles

How many miles?  Well, according to her interview broadcast on today's You and Yours on BBC Radio 4, Kate Ashbrook seems to be able to see for more than 130 miles.  This perhaps indicates hitherto unsuspected super powers.  It's certainly better than Specsavers.

Ms Ashbrook is based in Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire and is the General Secretary of the so-called Open Spaces Society.  The property she was talking about is in New Mills, Derbyshire.  She said in the interview that the sewage works in the centre of the land in New Mills "hasn't been used for 70 years or so".  She's badly wrong on that score.

The distance between Henley and New Mills is about 186 miles by road, and 136 miles as the crow flies.

Let's move on to another part of the same town.  Also in New Mills, the Open Spaces Society was giving comprehensive assistance to local people - one of whom was a member of the OSS - to register the real town green.  This is a different piece of land, located next to the town hall and library.

The outcome is very revealing about the politics and corruption of the so-called Open Spaces Society.

New Mills town council wanted to do a profitable land deal to build a courthouse on this open green space.  A phone call to General Secretary Ashbrook  from local New Mills politician and town councillor Sir Martin Doughty was made.  He was a personal friend, and in his capacity as boss of the Natural England quango was also a holder of purse strings at a national level for 'environmental' groups.

Developing the courthouse on this green open space was Sir Martin Doughty's personal pet scheme.  His personal call resulted in the Open Spaces Society immediately withdrawing its help in registering the real town green.

The letter* written by the Open Spaces Society's to its local member, following the personal intervention of General Secretary Ashbrook to help her developer friend Sir Martin Doughty:
"I have recently discovered that you are working against the town council who have been members of the society since 1974.  In the circumstances I regret that I will be unable to assist you further."

* A copy of this disgraceful correspondence is available upon request by email.

8 March 2010

Dog Fouling and Excrement, 1: New Swimming Pool and Community's £95m Regeneration, 0

The newly constituted Supreme Court has lost no time in messing things up and handing out the sort of socially damaging opinion that sometimes made the House of Lords notorious.

Coatham near Redcar is the latest victim of nimbyism's modern infatuation with abusing the traditional English village green.

The Open Spaces Society ("We're not anti development, honest we're not"), based in Henley on Thames, was more than usually triumphalist when the surprising Supreme Court opinion was published in the case of Regina (Lewis) v Coatham and Redcar Borough Council and Another.

Less publicised were the opinions of local people who now actually have to live with the depressing consequences.  Here are comments taken verbatim from local news outlets on the web:
"Many thanks for the Friends of Coatham Common, many of whom do not live nearby, for saving a large dog toilet, the youth of redcar will be really pleased they have no leisure facilities."

"Redcar is a DUMP and somepeople seem desperate to keep it that way. The steel works close, people will have to leave the area, and the residents fight against better facilities for themselves!"

"It cant just stay as a dogs toilet. If they just have it as a common then no. It needs to improve the town and not be left as a piece of waste land."

And finally, from local Lord of the Nimbys Jimmy Willis.  The loudest agitators are, as usual, not from the place in question.  More keen on selfishly saving 'the view' from his own privately-owned house than on the needs of other people:
"We moved to Redcar four years ago... We had always visited Redcar when I was home on leave. We got a property with a beautiful sea view and open space out our back gate on High Street West, then we found out Persimmon and the council were going to take away one of the reasons we bought it."

18 February 2010

He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy

Saham Toney.  What is it?

It's another place where some bloke has used the insane village green laws of this country to claim that somebody's land - shown in the picture above - is a village green.

The bloke in question is Brian Hinkins and the fact he's from Norfolk is no excuse.  The village green scam is being used all over the country.

It's not a village green, it's a field used for growing beetroot of a reasonable quality.

17 February 2010

The Tangled Web

The BBC's emerging specialist reporter on the national scandal of spurious village green claims, Melanie Abbott, innocently gave a misleading statement during today's otherwise excellent You and Yours item on the subject.

She stated in her radio report that, to sustain a village green claim, use of the relevant application land must be "without the permission of the landowner".

This error is unintentional and entirely understandable.


The traditional situation was that a landowner could always protect his or her property from village green claims in one of two ways. Either:

a) by choosing to put up barbed wire and closing off the access points to the land, rendering it inaccessible or;

b) by simply giving permission to local people to use the land for lawful sports and recreation. This gave full protection from any future claims.

The change in the law

The perfectly reasonable defence that Melanie Abbott referred to - of an owner giving permission to use their land - has been removed. This was done by sub-section (7)(b) of Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. 

Melanie Abbott is just the latest person to innocently fall victim to the dishonest and convoluted legislation which tries to pretend that tarmac car parks, sites of effluent works, and beet fields are 'village greens'.  She won't be the last.

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 must be abolished.  This part of the legislation can never be got right, because it was fundamentally dishonest from the start and has been dealing with fakes ever since.  It was drafted from the unreasoning and hard-line ideology of Kate Ashbrook of the so-called Open Spaces Society and of Paul Johnson, an unelected quango employee, rather than from fairness and common sense.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."

The BBC News related article can be read here

12 February 2010

Ten Years After

Way back in the year 2000, a chap called Tim Budd didn't like the idea of houses being built near where he lived.

A small roundabout was needed to improve access to the proposed new homes, and this would be laid over a small proportion of a massive area called Fairfield Common.  The houses were not to be on Fairfield Common, or indeed anywhere near it.

A claim that part of the land was a 'village green' was sent in to the registration authority and, amazingly, accepted.  There is of course no fee payable for sending off one of these forms.

So the roundabout improvement could not then go ahead, and for the want of a roundabout access was lost, and for the want of access, the new homes were lost.

There was appeal and counter appeal over the intervening years, new applications were made and inspectors were appointed.  Judges looked at the case, new witnesses were found after court decisions were made, decisions had to be expensively un-made, and so on.

The Law's Delay

Reminiscent of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, the interminable legal case at the centre of Bleak House, the so-called 'village green' claimants in this case have managed to inflict huge expense - which they will not be paying a penny of - and a delay of an astonishing ten years by miring the matter in legal quagmire.

Unless there is yet another appeal in the case, the registration authority have, on 8 February 2010, determined that there is no village green there.

Are You Local?

Traditional and genuine village greens arise solely from customary law, that is to say the local strands of the original common law of this country.

However, the land that was claimed to be a 'village green' in this case - solely to frustrate people's plans and people's homes - is in Buxton in Derbyshire while the applicant, Tim Budd, is from London.

It is also not controversial to point out that Mr Budd, who opposes homes for other people, doesn't mind living in a house himself.

And so ends another case of abuse of the well-intended but totally naive current legislation concerning the town and village greens of England.

10 February 2010

Fake Village Greens

Following today's edition of You and Yours on BBC Radio 4, helping to give exposure to the great village green swindle, the above picture has appeared on the programme's website.

It captures the dishonesty of the fake village greens industry made possible since the fateful - and utterly disgraceful - opinion of Lord Leornard Hoffman in the case called Sunningwell in 1999.

The government should look at that picture, which represents the perversion of the noble idea of genuine English village greens, and hang their heads in shame.

The £2.5 Million Pound Woman

The following was received by CRVG as a comment on the 'Fake Village Greens' article but is too long for that, so has been given its own separate post  It is from June McCarthy, one of the two applicants in the infamous Oswestry Railway Land case:

Re Oswestry railway Land - You do not know the history of this claim. Oswestry Railway land was abndoned to Nature in the late 1960s, the lines were removed and the fences fell down. As the land lay becoming greener and more inviting and the fences fell down and no owner/ that is British Rail, seemed to bother or care for the land local people started using it , especially children. A local botanist wrote in the local paper about the plants and the wildlife on the land in 1984 and all the people coming and going on it. In 1994 Borough Councillors themselves declared it should be saved for local people and one stated in their meeting that it had become an unofficial town park with hundreds of local people using it. There are Planning Officer land reports acknoledging its use by locals, and several independant Reports documenting it. The land was included in the Local Draft Plan for Open Space, Councillors recognising its importance in the lives of local people. However the Councillors renagued on their promise to save it for people , and when Advantage West Midalnds came along with the offer of money and a regeneration deal the land appeared in the actaul Local Plan as Regeneration land. Thus, the people had been led to believe that the land was to be saved for them in the draft Local Plan only for the land to be reclassified in the actual Local Plan and the people using the land had no say in it. This was the background to our claim. I nor my fellow applicant live in sight of the land , so it is not in my back yard so to speak, so I am not a NIMBY.

We did not win the land for local people's use through a loophole in the law, but rather by the application of the law which found our claim to be sound, land used by local people without permission or prohibition for lawful pursuits fro more than 20 years. Advantage West Midalnds could easily have looked up the past use of this ex Railway land and should not have bought it for development. They made the decsion to spend good public money opposing our claim. They did not need to do this. They employed a top barrister twice to oppose our application, we did not employ a barrister but put the case ourselves. They also spent money trashing it in the name of remediation, which they had no need to do , as any past industrial contamination was locked in the deep layers of the soil. They put local people at risk brringing this to the surface and laying waste to the Green before we could move to register it. We did not take land from a private owner m, but took land from a Government development agency to give it back to the local people who had been using it for more than 20 years.

A couple of specific points need a response:
1) Yes, we DO know the history of this claim.  That is why we find it so disgraceful.
2) If not a NIMBY, then perhaps a BANANA ('Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone')
3) True that, in this case, the property was not taken from a private owner with no compensation or negotiation.  However, the property was certainly taken from the hard-pressed taxpayer.  The relevant public development agency told the BBC's You and Yours programme that the cost of losing the property was £2.5 million.


Dingo Mum, 50

This Campaign follows George Orwell's sage advice on writing, and so where possible prefers snappy titles to longer ones.

An article published today on Conservative Home has possibly the longest article title we've ever seen:  The Conservatives must act to stop vexatious applications to protect village "greens" - which are wasting millions and denying people homes.

With a title like that, the article couldn't 'do what it says on the tin'.  Unless it was a very big tin.

In fact it's a wonderful tin, and as large and effective as a depth charge.  The policy leader at the National Housing Federation, Cameron Watt, perfectly summarised the urgent need for abolition of Section 15 of the Commons Registration Act 2006.  The opening lines of the article:
"What do a slag heap from a disused mine, an ex-industrial brown-field site covered in shrubs and a beetroot field have in common? Not much, except all are being claimed as town and village greens as NIMBYs increasingly exploit legislation to protect genuine communal space to block legitimate developments."
The Conservatives are preparing a planning green paper.  They must include abolition, or radical corrective amendment at the very least, to Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 in order to stop the modern abuses of traditional village green legislation.

For those wondering about the title of this article, it's tabloid-speak in honour of a middle-aged friend of this Campaign who has recently disappeared to Australia.

Here is the link to the full article on Conservative Home.

9 February 2010

Well Done The BBC. Another Winner!

No sooner had we pointed out that investigative and consumer programmes were ignoring the national scandal that is the great village green swindle, the BBC are to run a feature on You and Yours about it.

The scheduled programme is 12 noon on Wednesday 10 February, on Radio 4.

This news came on the same day that criticism was levelled from some quarters at some of the Beeb's pay levels for journalists and presenters.

Now that we know the Beeb is starting to give long overdue coverage to the great village green swindle, personally we think the licence fee is far too low.  We're with Mr Pitman of Camberwell, who likes the test card and would willingly sell his house and all its contents to help the BBC.

3 February 2010

A Snake In The Grass

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 is the badly thought-through recent statute that attempts to deal with modern so-called 'town and village greens'.  It came into force on 6 April 2007 and needs urgent repeal or, at the very least, serious corrective amendment.

Proposed housing and regeneration schemes are the favoured targets for damaging and growing claims made using this legislation.

Such claims - that someone's property is a 'village green' - have very substantial nuisance value even if they don't succeed.  They are now a favoured device used by objectors in stopping or frustrating many legitimate developments.

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 leads to gross injustice for individuals as well as other landowners such as public bodies.

The serious problems that the proposed new law would bring were easily forseeable.  Before it came into force the following predictions appeared in Estates Gazette*:
"The threat to land values and development schemes posed by village green law will take a major turn for the worse."

"As a result of the Act, any landowner that has taken steps to protect its land in the past five years will have that protection taken away."
"The new law will create uncertainty for landowners and developers."
"Proving a negative is hard work, made more difficult by local people being unwilling to assist the landowner and/or giving dishonest evidence."

*The author of the article 'Landowners face a snake in the grass', which appeared on 17 March 2007, was Julian Boswall.  At the time he was at Eversheds LLP, and is now a partner at law firm Burgess Salmon.

26 January 2010

Spanish Practices

A couple of changes have been made to the Campaign For Real Village Greens website.

At launch, the initial focus was on the social damage and public waste of money being caused by extensive and growing modern abuse of the well-meaning traditional village green legislation.

However, that is only half of the scandal.  The following has now been added to the front page of the website:
"People in England and Wales are being robbed of their property, sometimes representing their life savings."
When land in Spain was taken from British people living there, with zero compensation for the owner and no opportunity for negotiation, there were investigative programmes on TV and radio about it.  Consumer programmes were scandalised.

The national media in the UK has not yet picked up on this similar state sponsored land-grab scandal here in England and Wales - the great village green swindle - right under their noses.

The Land Thieves

Emails from different people, received recently by the Campaign for Real Village Greens, are epitomised by the following:
"I purchased two and a half acres of scruffy land in 2004 that is currently being used for fly tipping by the residents at the back of their properties. I applied for planning permission for development in July 2007 and received notice through, in April 2008, the residents had applied for village green status."
The victim of the land-grab in this case happens to be Mike Gwynne in Wales.  However, he is far from alone.

Land thieves are striking up and down the country, abusing legislation concerning town and village greens.

Although cowboys have been used as the image here in order to make the point, the real land thieves in these modern cases, happening right now, are causing serious loss and damage to public sector bodies as well as to private landowners and charities.  As soon as they make a claim over somebody's property, these "let's pretend it's a village green" fraudsters render it totally valueless.

This is supposed to be the United Kingdom in the modern age, not the wild west from over a century ago.

21 January 2010

The Silence Of The Registered Charity

Some people at the Open Spaces Society appear to believe that because an 'industry' making bogus claims of village greens has grown up, this is a success story for its activities.

But they don't like their view of things to be challenged.  In a comment to readers of Planning Blog late last year the OSS's General Secretary, Kate Ashbrook (pictured), stated that the Campaign for Real Village Greens website "contains much misleading information".

We therefore wrote to the Open Spaces Society, on 4 December 2009, requesting answers to the following questions:
"Please provide specific details of any misleading information on the site.  If you are aware of any factual inaccuracy on the site please now point it/them out to us.

"Secondly, please advise what message the Open Spaces Society, speaking on behalf of its members, has got for those people who suffer the loss of their property - and therefore in some cases their life savings - as a result of town or village green claims that are made."
No answer has been received.

The Open Spaces Society receives benefits from claiming registered charity status.  It has indeed become a statutory consultee on issues where very large amounts of public money are involved.

The lack of accountability, as well as integrity, within the Open Spaces Society organisation is a serious matter.

19 January 2010

Bogus or Spurious?

English often has two completely different words for exactly the same thing.  An example of this is 'purchaser' and 'buyer'.  This is because the language contains elements of older, less used languages such as Latin and Greek.

We've been trying to decide between 'bogus' and 'spurious', to describe modern claims that various properties are village greens.  Some examples of this national scandal are illustrated in Case Studies on the Campaign for Real Village Greens website.

'Spurious' was the early front runner, and seemed to have the pedigree to stay the course.  For example when the president of the Country Land and Business Association, William Worsley, was interviewed by the BBC about these fake village greens he used the phrases 'spurious applications' and  'applications are completely spurious'.

So 'spurious village green' has a ring to it, and is 100% accurate.

But 'bogus' has recently emerged as a contender.  It's shorter and has a more blunt sound to it. In the marketplace of ideas, 'bogus village green' may start to fight it out with 'spurious village green' to describe the abuses of well-meaning legislation that nimbys in England and Wales have been getting up to.

A scandal has recently been unearthed and publicised, about illegal immigrants who would quite like to live in Britain but aren't entitled to.  The media reporting on this subject usually referred to the device in question as a 'bogus marriage' and hardly ever as a spurious marriage.

Regarding the shameful fake village green industry that has now grown up, we shall see whether 'bogus' or 'spurious' wins out.

Of course, there is also 'fake' and 'sham'...

18 January 2010

Nimbys Vs Kids

In Runnymede, Surrey, the local paper reports on a dispute between parents and local kids on the one hand, and opponents of new play facilities on the other hand. 

The land in question is not a registered village green.  The Berry family are pictured in a visit there, above.

In a sublime example of the dishonest double-speak used by nimbys all over the country,  Get Surrey quotes 'Bob Milton of the Open Spaces Society' as saying:

“What we are talking about are recreation facilities, which I think is inappropriate for a village green.”

Trivia corner
Famously, Runnymede was the site of the sealing of the Magna Carta.  This is also relevant to the 'bogus village green' scam now blighting England and Wales.  Among other things, this declaration of rights stated that no free man may be deprived of his property.

As Tony Hancock put it in Twelve Angry Men: "Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?  Did she die in vain?"

10 January 2010

The Politics of Bogus Village Greens

The Campaign for Real Village Greens was established so the great village green swindle can be given its proper amount of publicity.  An evil, once exposed, is halfway to being defeated.

Since the Campaign's website went live, exposing bogus village green antics all over the country, we are delighted to report that Questions in Parliament have now been asked on this subject by representatives of all the main political parties.

For the Conservatives, their Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Caroline Spelman:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what criteria are used to determine the designation of designated green space or common recreational area as a village green; and what information his Department holds on the number of areas registered as village greens.”

For the Liberal Democrats, their Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government is one and the same. Lord Greaves:

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the National Common Land Stakeholder Group was not consulted on the proposal to consult in spring 2010 on whether to reform the town and village greens registration system;

what will be the timescale and cost of the proposed consultation in spring 2010 on whether to reform the town and village greens registration system; and whether the consultation will include all commons or only town and village green;

what representations they received on the town and village greens registration system between the implementation of section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 and the commissioning of the Study of Determined Town and Village Green Applications, produced by Countryside and Community Research Institute and Asken Limited;

how Her Majesty’s Government will implement the recommendations in sections 7.7, 7.8 and 7.9 of the Study of Determined Town and Village Green Applications."

Tom Levitt MP (Labour):

“To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what changes he plans to propose to guidelines on town and village greens to prevent their application to land which already has planning permission for development.”

The answer to Tom Levitt MP’s question was delivered on 14 December 2009, by Huw Irranca-Davies on behalf of the Government:

“DEFRA recently received the final report of research into the registration of new town or village greens: 'Study of registered town and village greens and the attitudes towards applications'. A summary of the research, together with the final report, is available on the DEFRA website.

"The findings of the research, as well as feedback from local authorities and others, lead me to conclude that there is sufficient evidence to justify a review of the existing system, with a view to exploring possible changes. Therefore, DEFRA plans to consult in spring 2010 on whether there is a need for reform of the registration system, and the options for reform that exist.”

9 January 2010

Modern 'Village Green' Claims: A Joke With No Punchline

A perceptive and passionate comment was added by R Dennis to last month's Planning Blog article 'Battle lines drawn in village green debate'.  That article, unfortunately, can now take ages to download from its site.  The comment is therefore reproduced here, verbatim:
"Most village green applications are legal theft. What gives someone the right to take another person's land whether they have walked on it or not. What if I were to come into your back garden and say I want to claim this because I have been walking my dog through it, when you were not looking. Absolute joke and the law needs to change to stop these thieves."