16 June 2009

The Village Green Claim Scam

The 'village green claim' scam is finally being properly exposed.

Amazing as it may seem, someone who doesn't own a property can claim that, because they led some dog or other onto it for a whoopsie, they have 'rights' over that land.  As a result, they can effectively deprive the landowner of it.

The cuddly name for the dog defecation area in question, the spurious label used in order to stop development, is 'town or village green'.

To take the most prominent local example, this was how the new High Peak Courthouse was finally halted.

It has been possible for any random nimby to use this ploy ever since 1999. In that year a landmark case - very carefully selected in order to win one case on narrow grounds but by doing so establish a binding country-wide legal precedent - was brought. The location chosen was Sunningwell in Oxfordshire.

This one perverse decison opened the national floodgates for these modern, false 'village greens'. We are now at the tenth anniversary.

Labour MP Tom Levitt gave a tremendous performance on this subject, in Parliament on 25 March 2008: "Someone who once flew a kite or walked a dog there - albeit while trespassing - puts in a town green application..." The result is that yet another socially valuable development is stopped. Valuable employment opportunities are also cynically thwarted using the village green scam.

Conservative councillors Tony Ashton, Linda Baldry and Emily Thrane (all High Peak) have now joined in. These prominent councillors have made an articulate plea to government to end the current abuse of this originally well-intentioned, but very naive, legislation.

The lobbying letters that MPs and councillors receive against new homes being built are from existing well housed residents. Their 'views' over somebody else's land are to be treated as sacrosanct, as if they own it rather than somebody else. They are happy to live in a house, but don't want homes for others.

This articulate few - always opposed to something being done near where they happen to live - are very careful to use emotional buzz-words. These include 'save' and 'campaign' and 'protect' and so on.

They are also expert at dog-whistle politics. This is where words like 'property developer' are used in the local press as boo-words, to try to build up a head of steam against new homes or employment or community facilities.

But the people - often the working poor - in desperate need of homes and other facilities, and who would benefit from social housing or new job opportunities, are not in a position to write to their MP or attend planning committees or 'campaign meetings'.

The new government in 2010 - of whatever colour - should put an end to this cynical, shameful travesty of the traditional village green of England.  That is, if the present government will not do it.
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Acronym corner:

'Nimby' is quite well-known when applied to unreasonable opposition to nearby proposed developments, standing for 'not in my back yard'.

Less well-known is that the crack squads from the local middle-class nimby ranks, the people hiding behind Keep High Peak Green and so on, are 'Bananas'. This stands for 'build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone'.

Excellent new book The Village Green Preservation Society, dealing with this subject in an informative, entertaining and occasionally hilarious way, out shortly.

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