10 February 2010

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.


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