Before Mr and Mrs Lightfoot purchased the Local Amenity Area in October 2013, the land was laid out as grassland inside a barked path, and meadow flowers were planted outside the path. The land was maintained by Phoenix by monthly cutting of the grass to the inside of the path, laying bark on the path itself, and allowing the wildflower meadow to flower and seed before cutting back at the end of the year. The residents of four villages walked the field, and it was as much a community meeting place as it was a place of natural beauty. The surrounding area itself is exceptionally quiet and this gave the whole field, especially in summer, a tranquil and peaceful feeling.
Many parents brought their children to see the wildlife, which ranged from rabbits, many kinds of birds (we still have the woodpecker) to butterflies and other insects. The open access onto Watery Lane also provided a safe route to the old railway line and the children's play area in Knighton. There were also voles living on the land, which in turn attracted owls. Bats were frequently seen flying at dusk.
When Mr and Mrs Lightfoot took over the land, they immediately stopped any maintenance of the path and started cutting the field, including the wildflower meadows, for hay/silage. The bark on the path disappeared with the first mowing. The rabbits and moles were gassed; there are no more voles and the owls only pay infrequent visits. Subsequently, Mr and Mrs Lightfoot constructed barbed wire fences to exclude members of the public completely. The field is now being taken over by nettles and ragwort. Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have publicly stated that they want to keep the use of the field private so that they can train their Husky sled dogs several times a week.
It can be useful to remember just why we are fighting for this land. We want to put up some photographs and quotes from people about their memories of what the land was like before the Lightfoots. Send in your memories and we'll add them here (send emails to email@example.com).
First up, we have some superb photographs of part of the wildflower meadow taken by James Crook in the summer of 2010 (all photos Copyright ©2010 James Crook).
James also has a photo of the top part of the central grassed area from early 2011 when Wimpey were in the early stages of development. This photo clearly shows that the field was being used by members of the public (photo Copyright ©2011 James Crook).
16 March 2017: Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have noted that their Statement of Case is not technically in the public domain until the date of the hearing itself and have asked us to remove it from the Web site (all documents referred to at the hearing will be in the public domain as of the hearing date). We have now complied with Mr and Mrs Lightfoots' request and temporarily modified the entry below for 18 January. The download of Mr and Mrs Lightfoots' Statement of Case will be made available again from the date of the hearing. Our own Statement of Case remains available for download.
9 February 2017: The Tribunal has given directions to proceed directly to exchange of documents and witness statements. Documents must be exchanged by 2 March and witness statements by 9 March. The hearing is now scheduled for sometime between June and November 2017.
18 January 2017: We have now received Mr and Mrs Lightfoot's response. In summary, they have argued two points
1. ...[temporarily removed until the hearing date at the request of Mr and Mrs Lightfoot]
Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have not provided any evidence for this interpretation. We have already provided Mr and Mrs Lightfoot with a letter from the Land Registry (Important Document F below) where the Assistant Land Registrar explains (bold and underline added for emphasis)
"I have investigated our files to try to establish why the appropriate entry was not made in the register but unfortunately I can find no specific reason as to why it was omitted other than it seems to have been overlooked by the caseworker at the time of registration of the transfer. All of our internal guidance and instructions on registration of transfersare clear that an entry should be made in the register."
2. ...[temporarily removed until the hearing date at the request of Mr and Mrs Lightfoot]
We have already provided Mr and Mrs Lightfoot with an aerial photo (Important Document A, below) of the land laid out as the Local Amenity Area defined in the Section 106 Recreation Scheme (Important Document E, below). We have also provided Mr and Mrs Lightfoot with copies of their own document (Important Document N, below) where they state
"[the land] is used by the public as open land, on a 'permissive' basis. The current landowners have no issue with the public crossing it in order to enjoy the countryside or to walk their dogs."
If you have any photographs showing the land laid out as a Local Amenity Area (essentially of the path and the wildflowers that were planted in the areas outside of the path) or alternatively may be willing to provide witness statements concerning your own use of the land please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tribunal will now make a decision as to whether the case is suitable for mediation and will ask the parties if they are willing to enter into discussion.
16 December 2016: Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have requested a two week extension of the 28 day deadline until 20 January 2017.
8 December 2015: Today is a major step in the legal process as we served our Statement of Case on Mr and Mrs Lightfoot before the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).
In 2007 Phoenix Rubber sold half of their factory site to Wimpey (on which the Priory Gardens development was built) and kept the other half to maintain it as a Local Amenity Area for the benefit of the general public. Unfortunately, the Land Registry made a mistake when recording this transfer and failed to note the burden of a covenant requiring that the Phoenix Field should be used only as a Local Amenity Area. The Local Amenity Area was then sold by Phoenix to Mr and Mrs Lightfoot in 2013.
The Land Registry have stated that they are willing to correct this mistake, but Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have refused permission to do so. Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have also refused to enter into mediation.
In these circumstances, the Land Registry is required to refer the matter to the First-Tier Tribunal, which they did on 27 October. The Tribunal required us to submit our Statement of Case by 8 December.
Mr and Mrs Lightfoot have 28 days in which to submit their response to the Tribunal. We will provide a further update when this is received.
The Tribunal has provisionally stated that the case will be heard in Spring 2017.