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.