The Land is Ours Newsletter
Issue 11 Winter 97/8
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Networking Office SOS
The Land is Ours’ Networking Group is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. As the number of individuals and local groups in the network have boomed, and the number of projects and campaigns that need help have also proliferated, our workload has multiplied at an astonishing rate. We need your help – in prioritising, in deciding how best to cope and, better still, in offering to take some of it off our hands. Office Chores: The Office Group connects the TLIO network, bringing people with needs together with people who can help. This involves maintaining the database, liaising with local groups, answering letters and calls, building up research files, fundraising, keeping accounts and general admin. We have also been producing and distributing the newsletter and other leaflets, running stalls and workshops at festivals and helping to organise actions, meetings and benefit gigs. We have helped in getting two books and several reports and guides published, and are working on a land songs tape and a video, as well as running a small land bookshop and library. Steve Jones, working from London, has created and maintained the website – he needs help now as well.
The Problem: Until now the group has relied on the work of a part-time administrator (Heather Winship), who is paid for two days a week, but in practice has been putting in far longer hours, and a number of volunteers. Initial enthusiasm has waned as volunteers have discovered that there is less and less time for the proactive projects they want to pursue. By March 1998, when Heather’s contract runs out, the Oxford local group simply won’t be able to fulfill its functions unless something changes. Have we got our priorities right? Are any of our activities a waste of time? Are we spending too long on some things and not enough on others? Which aspects of the service do you value most? Which are least satisfactory? What do you want the office to be doing? Is the newsletter everything it should be? What about the website? What should we do about it? We have identified a number of potential options for reducing or distributing our workload. There are almost certainly others. Please let us know your opinion as soon as possible. But remember, no change is not an option.
1. Identify the core functions of the office and push the rest (fundraising, the newsletter, bookshop etc.) out to other people in the network Advantages: It would spread the load more evenly, encourage more people to get actively involved in networking and bring in new ideas and approaches. Disadvantages: There could be a loss of continuity and coordination.
2. Professionalise most of the Networking Office’s activities, by raising money to hire at least one full time administrator, possibly two. Advantages: The boring work would get done, efficiently and on time. Disadvantages: It could be the beginning of a slippery slope towards looking like an NGO. It would require a major fund-raising effort.
3. Rotate the office between local groups, say for a year at a time. Advantages: It would benefit from fresh enthusiasms and fresh ideas. It is inherently more democratic. Disadvantages: It assumes that other local groups would be willing to take it on. Networking might suffer through loss of continuity.
4. Close the networking office, divide its resources among the local groups and leave them to organise their own actions, do all their own fund-raising and respond to requests in their own areas. Advantages: The burden of work and responsibility would be more evenly spread. Disadvantages: Many parts of the country are not covered by local groups. Several of the local groups have enough trouble finding time for their activities as it is. We would have less of a coordinated national presence.
The Networking Group exists only for the benefit of the network. We are not going to make this decision on your behalf. So responses please, as soon as possible.
The Land Is Ours held its October national gathering at Keveral Farm in Cornwall. Keveral runs a successful organic box scheme to the local community and is run by a housing and workers co-operative. The gathering was attended by about 40 people from Yorkshire, London Oxford, Bristol and the south-west with lively discussions on the right to roam, allotments, the new housing crisis and how to campaign on issues. Local groups reported on their successes on reclaiming land, publicising the right to roam, commenting on county structure and local plans and spreading awareness of landrights issues nationwide. Bristol local group have offered to host next year’s national gathering in September 1998 and it is hoped that local groups will arrange intermediate regional gatherings in late spring. Full minutes can be obtained from the Oxford Office on receipt of an SAE.
On 20th/21st September TLIO staged a mass trespass and overnight camp on Oxfordshire landowner Lord Rotherwick’s estate, to highlight the inadequacies of the proposed “Right to Roam” legislation. The right to roam in woodland is especially important as many areas previously owned by the Forestry Commission, who allowed public access, have been sold to private landlords who rapidly (and legally) erect “Private – Keep Out” signs.
Wychwood Forest at 1400 acres is the largest of only two ancient woodlands in Oxfordshire. It was open to the public up until 1853 when it was enclosed. It is currently intensively managed for grouse shooting and deer stalking for wealthy businessmen. There is no public access save for a footpath which was created by the county council in 1989 as part of the Oxfordshire Circular Footpath. Lord Rotherwick is still pursuing a compensation claim of £1.6 million for this footpath against the people of Oxfordshire.
A marquee was set up on Newhill Plain in the heart of the forest, where an annual fair was once held. Over the weekend 100 people came to the camp. TLIO held guided walks round some of the exceptional wildlife and the many well-preserved ancient monuments. A game of cricket was enjoyed by the activists, and as a bonus it was discovered that a corporate hospitality day in the forest had to be cancelled.
On Sunday a group went to Cornbury House, Lord Rotherwick’s ancestral home. Unfortunately he was not in. His `agent’ refused to comment and called the police. Two policemen turned up. They asked if we were going; “yes” we said, “we’ve proved our point”, to which they replied, “It needed to be said”. TLIO have since been sent a stiff letter from Nabarro Nathanson, solicitors for Lord Rotherwick, accusing us of criminal assault and threatening injunction proceedings on future actions…
The Right to Roam
? The Access to the Countryside Bill, which is supported by TLIO, Open Spaces Society and The Ramblers receives it second reading in the House of Commons on 13 February 1998. Therefore we call on everyone to lobby their local MPs to ensure its success. East Anglia Land Is Ours have organised a petition and presented it to their local MP, Tim Yeo, and have been campaigning locally to raise awareness.
? The Duke of Westminster (voted Worst Landowner in 1995) has raised Elm to fight the legislation to allow access on moorlands. He states that wildlife will be disturbed by ramblers. However, the Raptor Protection Group say that the public act as guardians of the wildlife and that there are significantly less poisonings, trappings and murder of Britain’s birds of prey when access is allowed. On Westminster’s six shooting estates in the forest of Bowland there has been a high incidence of ra ptor persecution. Between 1980-1990 over 300 peregrine falcons and hen harriers were confirmed missing or destroyed. Westminster blamed the nest destruction on trespassing climbers! Further details on http://www.blackpool.ner/nwrpg/index.htm
Watch out for:
? Government consultation paper on the right to roam. To be published this month. Early indications suggest it is fairly promising – granting public access to mountains, moorland, heaths, downland and common land. It doesn’t go as far as many of us would like, as it so far excludes woodland and coastline. Copies from: the Department of Environment Transport and Regions (DETR): 0171 276 0900.
? Government’s White Paper on Regional Development Agencies is due out this month. Early indications suggest it will be catastrophic. Contact DETR (see above). Steve Hawkins has compiled a thirty page report for TLIO: `Regional Development Agencies: a disaster in the making?’ £2 from the office.
New law on the moor
Currently in Newcastle `No Business on the Moor’ are fighting against plans to build a massive 85 acre football stadium complex on a protected moor. Sarah Dobbyn is a barrister who is helping them. So far her argument with the council has gone like this:Sarah: “You c an’t consider these plans, they’re illegal. The land is protected!”, Council: “Yes we can, there’s no law that says we can’t consider them”. So Sarah went away and did some more research: “BUT you’re not allowed to continue considering them if you know they’re illegal, without changing them and making them legal.” She also found the catchily titled `Doctrine of Legitimate Expectations in Administrative Law’ never seen before in planning battles, which she believes will be really useful in future cases of this kind. This says that if people are used to using a public space for their own purposes, even if they don’t have defined legal rights to do so, the council should not allow development without a public enquiry. Sarah reckons it could even be used to get the Secretary of State involved.
For further information, contact; Sarah E. Dobbyn, Temple Chambers, 3 – 7 Temple Avenue, London EC4Y ODB or at `ELMS’ 0171 583 8844. Also, `No Business on the Moor’ are c/o St. Luke’s Church, Back Claremont St, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4AN, tel: 0191 232 8090. Include SAE for newsletter.
Allotments – Have you lost the Plot?
If you’re without a garden, and you don’t want to be tied to the industrial food chain, an allotment provides direct access to land, gives you control over what you eat, and saves hundreds of £s a year. The allotment movement began with the last of the enclosures in 1845 as a way of `buying off’ local people who had lost their land. The last of these enclosures is still going on all over Britain as allotment sites are often in prime urban areas and worth a fortune to their owners – local authorities and other bodies (Railtrack is currently looking into selling their sites amounting to 10,000 individual plots). The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardens is the only network at present for allotment users. However they are pulling out of helping with legal issues as they claim it is proving too expensive. If you are losing your allotment and need legal help, have any information to give us, or would like to be involved contact Sophie Andrews at the Networking Office.
TLIO Register of Unowned Land
Probably the only advantage of the absence of a comprehensive UK land registry is the surprising number of bits of unowned land about. Often the only sure way to tell if land is owned can be to graze your animals there or put up a structure on it, then wait for the legal system to creak into action and the deeds to be produced. There are many reasons why land might be `unowned’: it has never been enclosed; a past owner has mislaid the legal documents p roving title; a past owner has disappeared; ownership is disputed; solicitor’s errors… the list goes on. Several such patches of land have been pointed out to us over the past year or so and, if genuine, these locations might be very handy for starting new allotments, eco-villages etc., whatever is appropriate for the site and agreeable to local residents. Once the legal position had been checked out we could campaign on them or suggest these locations to appropriate people or groups in genuine need of land. Anyone who knows of a piece of land, however small, that they have good reason to think might be `unowned’ or would like to help with this initiative, please send relevant details to Tony Gosling at The Land Is Ours c/o 10 Highwood Close, Orpington, Kent, BR6 8HT. Alternatively you can contact Tony by email firstname.lastname@example.org or via the office.
The Countryside Commission is initiating a Millenium Greens project, to give at least 250 communities throughout England the chance to create their own new areas of open space using a grant of £10m from the Millenium Commission. Applications to be submitted before the end of July 1998. Tel 0121 233 9399.
Rural Settlement Forum
TLIO is compiling a handbook for those who want to live on the land and wo uld like to know more about it. Included is information on helpful planners, how to get planning permission, possible sources of finance and helpful reading. If you share a vision of getting back to the land, contact Dan at the office. The Rural Settlement Forum and handbook is intended to be a networking tool so people can share problems and experiences which will be followed up in 1998 by a conference. We would like someone to volunteer to arrange this and take the post of Rural Settlement Co-ordinator from Mike Fisher. Please call the office for further details.
Between 23-26 October volunteers gathered at Tinkers Bubble in Somerset to build a yurt for TLIO to use on future actions and festivals. The 16″ Yurt has sweet chestnut roof ribs and poles, harvested by Ben Law in Sussex. The roof wheel is of Elm from Tinkers. A week after it was completed, Bristol TLIO used the yurt on a successful day’s action to reclaim some derelict land. The course was much enjoyed by all those involved. We are very grateful to Tinkers Bubble and to Steve Place for his expert tuition. To learn rural skills such as dry stone walling, coppicing, hedge laying, and ecology, the Brit ish Trust for Conservation Volunteers organise courses and working holidays around the country. (BTCV: 01491 839766)
Local Land Initiatives
Radstock: A camp has been set up to protect a Site of Natural Conservation interest from supermarkets, roads, private housing, and a railway. The land once belonged to the National Coal Board, who no longer exist, and ownership is claimed by CAB (a property developer), Bath and North East Somerset Council, and the British Rail Property Board. The protesters believe it is now common land. A recent meeting attracted 400 supportive local residents. An alternative plan for the site has since been drawn up by the protestors, incorporating centres for healing and the environment. More people are needed on site. Contact: Nook, 12 Frome Rd, Radstock, Somerset (01761 432273).
The Cornish Alternative Community Project. A sustainable community is being set up for Cornwall residents. The project’s focal point is an alternative education centre for children and adults. Also planned are roundhouses, stone huts, ecohouses, LETS scheme, Co-ops, and organic produce. As yet they are landless and need office resources. Contact: Rosie Holt, Southill Farm, Perranwell, Goonhavern, Truro, Cornwall, TR4 GPE, Tel c% Stevie 01872 553835, Website: http :\\www.notcom.uk.co.uk@bwallick rosie.html.
Bingley Anti-road Campaignprotest is based at Ryeloaf Camp on the banks of the river Aire. The planned road is presently under review. The camp remains in the hope that nonviolent direct action will deter the government from proceeding. Contact BARC, Ryeloaf Camp, Bingley West Yorks or call Ben or Helen 01274 504626.
Community based squatters in Bristolare under threat of eviction by Lloyds Bank despite attempts to negotiate the creation of a housing coop. The Keeble squat has been operating for two years, with vegan cafes, talks, workshops, music evenings and an information centre. Contact John or Martin on 0117 9399469.
Chalet homesteaders at Carbeth, Stirlingshireare facing eviction from their homes. The 110 but owners who have lived on the land for 50+ years are suddenly facing rent increases of up to 42% and service charges for chalets which have no running water or electricity. They are witholding rent, and the landlord plans to evict. They hope to follow hutters in Holtsield who marched to the House of Lords and changed the status of their holiday homes to be covered by the Rent Act. Further details from Chris Ballance: 0141 339 6579.
Quarry campaigners at Dead Woman’s Bottomnear Frome have set up a protest camp due to Somerset County Council’s plans to extract minerals and a build a road in Ashan Wood, a 6000 year old woodland nature reserve and SSSI which has 10% of the country’s remaining population of Greater Horseshoe bat. Contact: 01749 880144 or visit the camp OS grid ref: ST/717462 near Green Farm, Chantry Frome.
UK Eco-village Network, Bristol:The global Eco-Village Network has its UK Base at the Create Centre in Bristol. It acts as an enthusiasm and skills sharing centre for those who see ecologically sensitive communities as the next crucial step in sustainable development Contact Mark or Nick on 0117 925 0505. Email cx61 @cityscape.co.uk.
Alliance against the Birmingham Northern Relief Road. Protest Camps are being set up in opposition to this development, officially acknowledged as a creator of more traffic not a solution to the area’s traffic problems. Contact Gerald Kells c/o 55 Follyhouse Lane, Walsall, West Midlands, WS1 3EL.
Hello! I’m Lilia, TLIO’s new `International Coordinator’, so contact me for information shar ing on foreign land issues via the office. Some important issues: Brazil: President of Brazil is coming to UK for honorary degrees, and the retrial of MST leader is to happ en, both in December. Contact Friends of MST on 0181 374 1290. Nigeria: Shell is devastating tribal land and society in the Niger Delta. Contact Delta on 0116 255 3223. Survival International defends indigenous people’s landrights globally, contact 0171 242 1441.
El Inquentro had their second international meeting for `Humanity Against NeoLiberalism’ in late July. Four thousand activists inspired by the Zapatistas of Mexico and other radical social political movements from across the world met in Madrid to create an intercontinental network of resistance and communication. Meetings proliferated across Spain and included a sub-conference mainly around issues concerning land at a squatters farm in Andalucia. For more info access website: http://Www.leco. utexas.edulfaculty/cleaver/zaps incyberhtml
Local Group Updates
TLIO has 24 local and issue based groups around the country. If you would like to get involved then please get in touch. If there isn’t one in your area then why not set one up? Ring the Oxford office for help and advice. LOW IMPACT WORKING GROUP: Contact Simon Fairlie 01935 881975. RURAL SETTLEMENT FORUM: Contact Mike Fisher 01256 771477. WEBSITE: Contact Steve Jones 0181 723 4603, Steve wa nts to set up a team to help run and manage the TLIO website, so please get in contact. There is a website training day, in Dec in Oxford. LOBBYING GROUP: Contact Dan Bloomfield, 0181 785 3014 ARCHAEOLOGY AND CULTURAL HERITAGE: Networking for archaeological issues within landrights. Contact Simon Chadwick, 01865 722016. BRISTOL: Lots currently going on including lobbying city council, networking other green groups, getting an allotment, fighting unwanted development alongside local residents and producing a local newsletter. Contact Gordon Franks 0117 965 6261 x3189 CORNWALL (EAST) Margarita (No telephone number) Box 26, Saltash, PL12 6XY CORNWALL (WEST): Contact: Matt Smith, 01736 711378. Have had 3 meetings so far to plan TLIO campaigns locally. DEVON: Having been engaged in negotiations with the national park authority for many years, they are now in a position to submit solid, positive proposals for a low impact dwelling which the authority appears to welcome. They are also looking to produce a parish map. Contact: Dave Osbiston, 01647 433684. EAST ANGLIA: have continued their `Right to Roam’ campaign with a petition of 1100 signatures, presented to Tim Yeo MP in front of news photographers. Also concentrating on the issue of government housing targets and greenfield development. A new sub-group is being set up in Colchester. Contact Linda Joslin, 01787 880 694. ESSEX: Group being set up with Alan Smith, contact Networking Office for details. GARGOYLE WHARF COMMUNITY ACTION GROUP: still active on the Wandsworth site, with a sponsored bungee jump event on 2nd November, and public meeting. They produce a newsletter dealing with site issues. Rialto Homes, who submitted a development proposal for a £175 million development with high quality residential homes, a hotel and restaurants and `linear public open space’ (i.e. footpaths) are talking to the Gargoyle Wharf group about their Planning for Real exercise which demanded low cost housing, parkland and local amenity shops, and looking at ways to compromise. Contact Earnest 0181 672 9698 GLOUCESTERSHIRE: Contact Paul Griffiths 01452 812163. HAMPSHIRE: A collective of groups and individuals opposed to Eagle Star’s proposed 8000 home development at Micheldever Station has been formed. A campaigning leaflet is under preparation. For more info contact Mike Fisher, 01256 771477 HULL: Contact Zoe and Mace, 01482 218377 KENT. Richard Moyse, 01795 890558. Group is still being set up, has commented on Medway Town Plan. LONDON: Contact Jo Norcup 0956 651580 OXFORD NETWORKING OFFICE 01865 722016 There has been lots going on at the offce with people departing and joining, and the computer dying and being replaced. Hopefully things will go smoother from now on. SHEFFIELD: Contact John Barnabus, 0114 243 8035 SOMERSET. Contact Matt Reed, 01460 64500 TYNESIDE: Contact Wilf and Beth 0191 232 8520 The group is doing well, about to release a press release on Eco-Settlement. Also networking on Permaculture, environmental education and ecovillages. WALES (SOUTH): Are campaigning on the South Sebastopol Development proposal which ignores local settlement concerns and is being pushed forward by developers and land owners whose only interest is monetary gain. The group have written to the Secretary of State calling for a review. Contact: Mike Jacob 01633 875627 WARWICKSHIRE: Contact Yasmin Frings 01203 353238 YORKSHIRE (NORTH): Contact Michael Gresham 01723 882289
The Land Is Ours is running out of funds. We greatly appreciate all the help our donors have given us over the last few years and this has successfully financed the office, a part time administrator, a quarterly newsletter, our website and helped many TLIO local groups set up and become established. This newsletter is currently circulated to 4000 people in Britain, free of charge. We would like to see it continue as a free resource but humbly ask for a donation to keep us going. Each mailout costs over £1000, or about £3 a year for each person so any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps you could even take o ut a small standing order to help fund us. Just £1 a month will help keep us going. Here are our bank details:- account name: The Land Is Ours, account number: 50013380, sort code: 0890-38. At Oxford Co-operative bank.
3rd December 1pm. Taking Power, an agenda for community economic renewal. Conference by the neighbourhood Think Tank. Contact: Mary Barnes 0171 485 3850.
4th December 7.30pm, Sudbury Local Group Meeting. Tel: 01787 880694.
11th December 7.30pm, Essex Local Group Meeting in Colchester. Contact Simon on 01621 891451.
11th December: London Local Group meeting. Phone Jo on 0956 651580 for details. O Mid December, Oxford. Website Training Day with Steve Jones for anyone who wants to learn about how to set up a website. In January there will be a specific website training day for those who wish to form a TLIO Website Group. Contact Steve 0467 693007 or Dan at the office for dates and details.
Saturday 17th January: FoEs Housing Conference for everyone campaigning against new housing developments. London. Contact Mark Brown (FoE) 0171 490 1555.
February 1998: Marion Shoard, Author of This Land Is Our Land will be speaking in Oxford a bout British landrights. Phone TLIO for details.
If you have difficulties getting to a venue, why not contact Freewheelers – the national lift share agency. Tel: 0191222 0090
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Networking Office SOS
The Right To Roam
Allotments – Have you lost the plot?
Local Land Initiatives
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