(see below for press articles about the camp and Natural England’s attempts to exclude the public from these commons and vast areas of coastal saltmarsh)
By Tony Gosling: 10Feb22 BRISTOL: TLIO camp finds opposition mysteriously vanishing to The National Trust’s privatisation of North Norfolk commons
But actual common rights exercised, as elsewhere, have been diminishing. Over the decades since the second world war livestock grazing, reed cutting, even shooting has dwindled and, armed with some of the best-paid lawyers in East Anglia three main institutions have been acquiring slices, and chunks of these unique commons.
Private feudal big guns are to be found at the Holkham Hall estate managers office a few miles East between Blakeny Point and Fakenham backed by the 25,000-acre the Earl of Leicester’s Estate. But despite the Earl’s increasing commercialisation of the area it is so-called charitable organisations, the parish councils and the National Trust that have become the haunts for these Johnny-come lately land-grabbers.
Natural England have been working closely with the National Trust too on coastal path proposals, unveiled in 2018, but under cover of ‘rewilding’ they aim to exclude walkers from thousands of aces of salt-marsh along the footpath. Local dog-walker Philip Platten, told The Times’ environment correspondent Jonathan Leake, ‘I will be visiting the marshes whenever I want, and I challenge anyone to stop me taking my grandchildren too.’ [see Rebecca Murphy’s May 2018 EDP article below]
NT claims have only been rebuffed by diligent SHDCRA members of the parish councils lodging counter-claims at the land registry along with copies of their eighteenth century enclosure awards. So, unfettered by the mere law of the land these parish councils are gradually being taken over by well-heeled incomers more inclined to turn a blind eye to the NT claims and view them as an ‘opportunity for development’.
But, bulldozer-in-hand, Brancaster’s in-yer-face land-grabbers, sub-letting from the grey-zone ‘twixt parish council and National Trust, have to be the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club who, since the 1990s, have taken the opportunity to carve out their own parking facilities into a large public car park which used to be free but as they have extended it they have also brought in a £4-£8 charge for anyone wanting a few hours or a day on one of the loveliest sandy beaches in the country.
With ten or so TLIO common rights supporters spending the long weekend under canvas on Brancaster Beach car park a whole series of passing locals settled into comfy chairs to tell tales of well-connected outsiders turning up as parish councillors, and suddenly chairing parishes too. Tales of ‘control freaks’ at the RWN golf club causing a exodus of members to the ‘less anal’ nearby Hunstanton club, and wondering if the tens of thousands in car park profits wouldn’t give a desperately needed facelift for the beach road and parish rather than vanishing into golf club coffers.
Beach protest over Brancaster land grab claims
By Judy Bates – Published: 01 September 2021
Land rights campaigners held a protest at Brancaster beach car park over the weekend to back local commons rights holders embroiled in a long-running disagreement.
Ten protesters from the Land is Ours campaign camped out on an area of land which is part of a dispute between the rights holders and the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club and the National Trust.
Tony Gosling, who came up from Bristol to lead the protest, said they saw it as something of a feud and an example of private landowners extending their boundaries and grabbing land and rights holders losing out.
Brancaster Marsh Common covers several thousand acres and parts of it have been registered by the golf club and the Trust.The common rights holders and parish council dispute the land ownership claims and are also disgruntled that they are not receiving enough compensation for being unable to exercise historic rights which date back to the Enclosures Act of 1765 and would have made the parish the owner of the land.
Although they don’t own any of the land, the 300-plus members of the Scolt Head and District Common Rightsholders Association (SHDCRA) are entitled to historic rights over the land for activities including shooting, fishing and grazing.
They claim that if they are not able to carry out these activities they are entitled to compensation and feel they are also entitled to a portion of any income from the land.
The beach car park is one area under dispute. It is run by the golf club which, according to the rights holders, also claims to own it.
Rights holder and parish councillor, Stephen Bocking, said that although the club had registered the land it occupies it has never produced the deeds to prove ownership and all SHDCRA receives in compensation is £100 for some fencing on the land.
“We just want to get people round a table to talk about it but all we get from the golf club are solicitor’s letters,” he said. One letter arrived in response to the protest action.
Chris Cotton, another rights holder and parish councillor, said that they welcomed the support from the Land is Ours campaigners although they had no idea they were coming to Brancaster until a few days beforehand.
Mr Gosling said they were not there to be disruptive – just to try to bring people together in what had developed into something of a feud.
He said: “It amounts to a difference of opinion between the traditional rights holders and new money which holds the legal clout,” he said.
Mr Gosling said they had an opportunity to chat to those involved over the weekend and hoped their intervention might bring the parties together face to face.
The issue will be on the agenda at a parish council meeting next Tuesday.
The Land Is Ours was founded in the 1990s by George Monbiot, now a leading figure with Extinction Rebellion.
The golf club has also been contacted for comment.
Norfolk salt marshes could be declared off-limits
Rebecca Murphy Published: May 14, 2018
Salt marshes in north Norfolk could be declared off limits to the public under proposals being drawn up by Natural England.The public body wants to exclude the general public from accessing areas of marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells.
It says the measures, which are included in its proposed route of the England Coast Path between Hunstanton and Weybourne, would ‘have the effect of enhancing existing conservation objectives’.
In a report outlining the measures, officials say that the establishment of the England Coast Path could attract more walkers to the area, increasing pressure on birds such as terns, redshank and ringed plover.
Two locations have also been identified as supposedly ‘unsuitable for public access’.
Natural England said it made the decisions following advice from selected ‘local stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’.
However, proposals have angered and frustrated many in the coastal communities who have said there has been a lack of prior notice to the proposals.
Burnham Market resident David Baldry has said the proposals are ‘poorly thought out’.
He said: ‘The salt marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe provides for a host of recreational pursuits.
‘In the warm summer months at low tide, many local children go swimming along the creeks after school, mud sliding on the banks, collect samphire, families and visitors to the area explore the creeks and salt marshes – this access to a wonderful wild and natural environment is what draws tourists to Norfolk and contributes so significantly to our rural economy.’
Michael Smith, who lives in Burnham Thorpe, is a common rights holder and would not be affected by the proposals.
He said he accepts the conservation needs at Wells but says there is no risk to public safety on the marshes around Burnham.
The 47-year-old, who is also chairman of the Scolt Head and District Common Rights Holders Association, said he does not feel Natural England is providing answers to questions to his questions.
‘When you ask around there seems to be no local stakeholders who say they have been asked,’ he said. ‘I have asked but they clearly are not preparing to give names.’
Natural England’s response
Natural England have said the proposals will not affect any existing access to the marshes for common rights holders or other walkers who use the area through informal agreements with landowners.
Sarah Dawkins, area manager for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: ‘When developing our coastal access proposals we have to make sure they don’t impact negatively on the environment, or create unforeseeable safety issues for walkers.
‘Following advice from local stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, we’ve proposed some restrictions excluding the new coastal access rights from just two areas of saltmarsh at Wells and Burnham Overy Staithe.’
People are encouraged to view the proposals and to comment up until Wednesday, May 16, 2018.
Locals put boot in as Natural England’s Coast Path threatens access to Norfolk salt marshes
Plans to protect wildlife alongside a Norfolk stretch of the trail around England are angering residents and artists
Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor – Sunday April 22 2018