Venue: The Large Hall, Swalecliffe and Community Association, 19 St John's Road, Herne Bay CT5 2QU
Contact: Andrew Tait 01622 694342
(1) The Panel Members visited the application site before the meeting. This visit was attended by Mr Graham Rickett (applicant) Mr Tony Skykes (Westgate Residents Association), Mr Tom King (Local Borough Councillor) and Mr R G Burgess (Local Member).
(2) The Commons Registration Officer introduced the application which had been made under Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 by Mr G Rickett. The application had been accompanied by 71 user evidence questionnaires, a petition containing 177 signatures and a letter of support from the Westgate and Westbrook Residents Association. During the consultation period, Thanet DC had raised no objection, whilst the local District Councillor had written to express her full support for the application.
(3) The Commons Registration Officer then said that the landowner was the Dane Court Grammar and King Ethelbert School Trust. Their solicitors (Winckworth Sherwood LLP) had written on their behalf to object to the application. Their grounds for objection were that the use of the site had not been “as of right” because verbal challenges had been made by the landowner; that such use had been insufficient to indicate to a reasonable landowner that a continuous right was being asserted; that the evidence provided was “skeletal and deficient”; that the overgrown state of the site supported the contention that use of the site had been minimal; and that the neighbourhood identified by the applicant was insufficiently cohesive to qualify as such. The solicitors had also suggested that the application should be referred to a Public Inquiry before a decision was made.
(4) The Commons Registration Officer then went on to consider the legal tests. The first of these was whether use of the land had been “as of right.” She said that there was a conflict of evidence in that the supporters of the application had given no indication of having been challenged and that there had been no prohibitive notices or other restriction to use of the site during (and beyond) the period in question. The landowner, on the other hand, contended that use of the land by students would have been by implied licence; that a number of events had been given specific permission; and that verbal challenges had been made to dog walkers. Three members of staff had provided statements to this effect.
(5) The Commons Registration Officer gave her view that the evidence as a whole suggested that use had taken place “as of right” but that further investigation would be needed on the question of verbal challenges before an informed conclusion could be reached.
(6) The second test was whether use of the land had been for lawful sports and pastimes. The user evidence suggested that the land had been used for a wide range of recreational activities. The landowner, however, contended that use had been skeletal and deficient and that it was not clear whether such use as had been attested had actually taken place on the site itself (as opposed to the wider area).
(7) The ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
(1) The Panel visited the application site before the meeting. This visit was attended by Mr Paul Watkins (landowner) and Mr Michael Lewer (Objector).
(2) The Chairman informed the Panel that he was the Local Member for the site in question. He had not discussed the Grasmere pastures issue with the applicant Mrs Watkins. Nor had he given any help or advice to any supporter of the application. He was therefore free to approach its determination objectively and impartially. He asked whether anyone present had any objection to him chairing the meeting for this item. As no one did raise any objection, the meeting continued with Mr Harrison in the Chair.
(3) The Commons Registration Officer introduced the application which had been made under Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. The land in question was owned by OW Prestland Ltd (represented by Mr Watkins). This company was, in turn owned by Kitewood Estates (represented by Mr Michael Lewer.)
(4) The Commons Registration Officer continued by saying that the application had been considered by a Panel in February 2011 and that the decision had been taken to refer the case to a non-statutory Public Inquiry. The Inspector had produced a 350 page report in November 2012.
(5) The Commons Registration Officer went on to summarise the Inspector’s findings. She had firstly considered the question of whether use had been “as of right.” She had heard a great deal of evidence in relation to the taking of the annual hay crop and had concluded that (whilst the landowner had tolerated public use outside the growing season between May and September each year) use by the public during the growing season had largely been confined to the footpaths and their perimeters. Such usage had been discounted by the Inspector for the purposes of considering whether the applicant had been able to demonstrate sufficient qualifying use.
(6) The Inspector had also considered a considerable amount of evidence in respect of fencing, notices and mounds dug around the perimeter. Even though the small area in the north west corner had been excluded from the application, the Inspector had concluded that a locked gate had been erected at this potential entrance. She had also found that two “Private Property No Trespassing” notices had been put up in September 2004 at the earliest. She had accepted that the fencing and mounds had not been in place after the qualifying period had ended (i.e. 14 September 2004).
(7) The Inspector’s overall conclusion had been that the landowner had taken sufficient action to convey to a reasonable user that his use had become contentious. As a result, she had found that use had not been “as of right” during the growing period or during the latter part of the twenty year period.
(8) The Commons Registration Officer went on to consider the Inspector’s findings in respect of whether the land had been used for the purposes of lawful sports and pastimes. The Inspector had concluded that the ... view the full minutes text for item 8.