Venue: Staplehurst Village Centre, High Street, Staplehurst TN12 0BJ
Contact: Andrew Tait 01622 694342
(1) Members of the Panel visited the site before the meeting. This visit was attended by the applicant, Mr Trevor Simmons, Mr Roger Day (landowner), Mr Frank Tipples and Mr Steven Wickham (Marden Hockey and Cricket Club) and Mrs P A V Stockell (Local Member.)
(2) The Commons Registration Officer introduced the application which had been made by Mr Trevor Simmons under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. The application had been accompanied by 30 user evidence forms and had received written support from the Marden History Group and the Marden Society as well as from 19 local residents. Marden PC also supported the application. Letters of objection had been received from 11 local residents.
(3) The Commons Registration Officer went on to say that the landowner was Mr Roger Day who had leased it to the Marden Hockey and Cricket Club. An objection had been received from Bircham Dyson Bell LLP on behalf of the landowner and the Club. Their grounds for objection were that the user evidence only revealed trivial and sporadic recreational use; that use had been “by right” rather “as of right” as many people had been guests of the Club and a significant number of the claimed recreational activities were the same as those undertaken by it; that the relevant locality had not been sufficiently defined and use had not been by a significant number of the residents; that the land had been fenced, with access to it being regulated by stiles and gateways which had been locked when not in use, with private notices visible; and that there was evidence that informal recreational users had been challenged.
(4) The Common Registration Officer moved on to consider the individual legal tests. The first of these was whether use of the land had been “as of right.” She said that it was clear that use had not been by physical force or stealth. However, the question of whether use had been challenged remained to be resolved as it was not clear whether the site had ever been entirely secured to prevent public access. The Panel Members had seen the “Private Ground” notice that morning. It was, however, unclear whether this notice had always been there or had been sufficiently prominent to constitute a clear challenge to access by the public.
(5) A further issue was whether the claimed recreational use was by implied permission. It was possible that if members of the Club were using the site for recreational activity, then the landowner would not have needed to challenge them, as it would have given the impression of an extension of Club membership activity rather than as the assertion of a public right.
(6) The Commons Registration Officer said that the uncertainties described could only be resolved through further and more detailed examination of the evidence.
(7) The second question was whether use of the land had been for lawful sports and pastimes. The Commons Registration Officer said that the user evidence suggested that ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
(1) The Panel Members visited the application site before the meeting. This visit was attended by Mr Howard Cox (the applicant) and by some 60 members of the public.
(2) The Commons Registration Officer introduced the application which had initially been made by Mr John Davis in March 2011 under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. Mr Davis had subsequently passed responsibility for the application to Mr H Cox.
(3) The Commons Registration Officer then said that the application had been accompanied by 69 user evidence forms, a number of supporting photographs and 27 letters of support. A petition containing over 1000 signatures had also been received. This petition had been submitted with its stated aim being “in aid of our protest against the building of houses on Rammell Field in Cranbrook, Kent.” This was not a consideration that the Panel was entitled to take into account as it could only consider evidence relating to the legal tests set out in the 2006 Act.
(4) The Commons Registration Officer then said that the land was owned by the Trustees of Cranbrook School. It had been acquired in 1922 by an association known as “The Old Cranbrookians Association” to provide a memorial for those who had attended the School and had fallen in the First World War. The Governors of Cranbrook School had agreed to take the conveyance of this field and had formed the Trust in order to (amongst other things) exercise management over it.
(5) The landowner had objected to the application on the grounds that use of the field had not been “as of right” for a continuous period of 20 years up to the date of application; that use by the public had been with permission (or else by force); and that the applicant had failed to correctly specify a “locality” or “neighbourhood within a locality.” In support of these objections, the landowner had provided a letter (dated 2011) from the former School Bursar; a letter (dated 1999) from the landowner’s planning consultant to Tunbridge Wells BC; letters sent to neighbouring landowners in 1999 and 2005; and copies of letters and invoices relating to the hire of the application site for formal events.
(6) The Commons Registration Officer moved on to consideration of the legal tests. All of these tests had to be met in order for registration to take place. The first of these was whether use of the land had been “as of right.” She explained that this meant that use would have had to have been without secrecy, force or permission. When considering whether use had been with force, it was necessary to establish not only whether physical force had been used, but also whether the landowner had taken reasonable steps to demonstrate to the public that use was being challenged.
(7) Access to the site during the qualifying period (1991 to 2011) would have been through two gates, as the rest of the boundary had been fenced. The applicants claimed ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
(1) The Commons Registration Officer said that the application had been made by Ms S Williams under Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. The land was owned by Kent County Council, which had applied to Ashford BC for outline permission for the erection of up to 14 dwellings on the site. The immediate question was therefore whether the Panel should determine the application on behalf of the County Council or refer it to the Planning Inspectorate, as provided for in the Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2008 and accompanying guidance.
(2) The Commons Registration Officer briefly outlined the application itself. The site in question was a piece of land of some 1.4 acres situated next to a cul-de-sac known as Bishops Green in the Singleton area of the Great Chart with Singleton Parish. The land had been open until a notice was put up stating “Public Notice Kent County Council property Land off Long Acre Road Ashford. The public may access this site for recreational purposes only they do so at their own risk. Permission may be revoked at any time.” The date given by the landowners for the erection of the sign was August 2009.
(3) Mr J N Wedgbury (Local Member) asked the Panel to note that he did not agree that the sign had been put up in 2009. He said that he had personally been present when KCC Property had put up the fencing and notice in 2010.
(4) The Commons Registration Officer said that Mr Wedgbury’s contribution was further confirmation that there were areas of dispute between the applicants and the landowner. In response to such circumstances, DEFRA’s guidance was that an application had to be referred to the Planning Inspectorate when “the registration authority has an interest in the outcome of the application or proposal such that there is unlikely to be confidence in the authority’s ability impartially to determine it.”
(5) The Commons Registration Officer then said that a previous Panel meeting had taken a decision to refer the Village Green application at Long Field in Cranbrook to the Planning Inspectorate in broadly similar circumstances. As this was an option available to the County Council, she had consulted both interested parties. The Landowner had objected very strongly to the proposed reference to the Planning Inspectorate. The applicant, on the other hand had given her view that the County Council had a direct interest and that the application could only be considered objectively by the Planning Inspectorate.
(6) The Commons Registration concluded her presentation by saying that the circumstances of the case were those envisaged by DEFRA when it had drafted the regulations and issued its guidance. The strong views of the applicant needed to be taken into account and she was therefore recommending reference to the Planning Inspectorate. In the event that the Panel decided not to do so, the application would be reported to the Panel in the Autumn.
(7) Mr R A Pascoe moved, seconded by Mr ... view the full minutes text for item 11.