Sir George goes to Court of Appeal
26 Feb 2004
Along with residents from Newtown Common, Sir George spent a large part of Wednesday in Committee Room 1 in the House of Lords, listening to the case of Bakewell Management v Brandwood.
This is the last stage of the legal campaign by residents to stop the new owner of Newtown Common charging them large sums of money for driving a few yards over the Common to their homes - a right they have enjoyed for decades.
Sir George amended the legislation three years ago, and charges are now "capped" at 2% of the value of the house. The Government defeated his amendment to reduce payments to zero.
The residents are now challenging the original decision - Hanning v Topdeck - which opened up the loophole now being used by common owners to hold residents to ransome. In that case, the Court found that the right to use roads over commons - the right of prescription - was not valid if a criminal act was being committed. And, since 1928, it has been a criminal act to drive a car on a common without the owner of the commons consent.
The original intention was to stop people on urban commons such as Clapham Common being at risk from cars as they walked and flew their kites. Until Hanning v Topdeck, common owners had not used this loophole as a revenue earner. People who bought houses and have done the searches through their solicitors were never told of this loophole.
"I am not a lawyer, and have no idea how the case is going in the Court of Appeal. The four Law Lords are clearly focussed on the issue. Obviously I hope they find in favour of my constituents. This is a feudal racket."
16 local residents met Sir George at Parliament, and sat through the case. Tim Kelleher, Chairman of the Residents, and Doug Ellis have been closely involved with the campaign, with Merton Vaslet doing valuable media work. The residents were joined by people from Peterstone in Wales, who are now facing the same problem.
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