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."