Parish Land: Evidence sent to Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council 2016

Letter One:

9thFebruary 2016

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council.

Dear Clerk, Chair and Councillors,

Parish Land and Assets

The position of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council becomes increasingly farcical and almost untenable. Were it not for the fact that local councils have been placed above the law by the last coalition government I believe you, our present councillors, would have been disqualified from office long ago. Why, because you are failing to protect village assets which are potentially worth millions.

The Clerk and Chair made statements during a closed session of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council as follows:

  1. To consider correspondence relating to local charities: Councillors had all received copies of correspondence relating to the Ellingham United Charities and Sand & Gravel Charities.  The chairman and clerk explained their consultations with the solicitor at NP Law and the advice that had been given, namely that the council did not insure the lands in question, was not registered as owning them, and did not have them on its asset register.  Even if the correspondent could prove that the council had once owned them, the law of adverse possession would have long ago extinguished any rights.  Also, the council could not be forced to own something it did not wish to own.  The solicitor’s advice was that if the correspondent wished to take the matter further they would have to apply to the High Court at their own expense for a declaration that the council owned the land, and would have to prove their case to the court’s satisfaction and overcome the law of adverse possession.  The solicitor’s advice was to respond that the council did not own the land and would not enter into any further correspondence on the matter, and the clerk should file any further correspondence and not take any action.  His opinion was that no court would criticise the council for this action.  Councillors agreed that the clerk should reply to the correspondent accordingly, and add “as previously stated” and “[any correspondence] whatsoever”.  Councillors also approved that, subject to the outcome of the Ellingham United Charities forthcoming meeting, the clerk should reply to the correspondent to re-confirm that it was not possible to make a donation to the Sand & Gravel Charity.

Owing to the absurdity of the above statements, I am now asking via the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for copies of the correspondence, email or otherwise, between the Clerk, Chair and the NP Law solicitor; or, copies of minutes taken, or notes made, during face to face meetings, or telephone conversations with the NP Law solicitor. Also copies of any memos, emails, or other communications between the Clerk and the Chair, other councillors. I also wish to have the reference from NP Law so that I, or my legal representative, can contact them.

Whilst I will communicate this request via recorded delivery post, I will take the date for the start of FoI proceedings as from the date of this email.

In commentary upon the above statements:

The chairman and clerk explained their consultations with the solicitor at NP Law and the advice that had been given, namely that the council did not insure the lands in question, was not registered as owning them, and did not have them on its asset register. 

This is, of course, a statement of the obvious and something that I have been raising with Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC) for many years. It is a dereliction of duty on the part of councillors not to protect the lands in question.

Even if the correspondent could prove that the council had once owned them (the lands in question), the law of adverse possession would have long ago extinguished any rights. 

This statement is a complete nonsense, it would seem, particularly as it is claimed as being solicitors advice. Why?

Most recently, in around 1900, both Kirby Cane and Ellingham charity Schemes of Management were drawn up by the Charity Commissioners. Both of the schemes did entrust, not give, management of the lands in question to the two sets of trustees. As a protection against mismanagement by the trustees, the Charity Commission set up the Schemes of Management so that both Kirby Cane Parish Council and Ellingham Parish Council would always have a majority of trustees. It is common sense therefore that at any time it wishes to do so, KC&EPC can regain full control of all of the lands and assets that rightfully belong to the village. Also, I understand via legal advice, trustees cannot legally use the (land thieves) excuse of adverse possession. Quite literally trustees are supposed to be trustworthy individuals, not those who would steal your land and assets.

The archives show continued parish ownership of some of these lands for centuries; all very well documented. As to the lands given at the time of the Enclosure Awards, 25 acres in all, the legal documents proving ownership by KC&EPC have all been provided. Ellingham Parish Council minutes provide evidence for its ownership of the Sand and Gravel Charity land. I would be happy to visit the Norfolk Record Office with council representatives to see the original documents.

I look forward to receiving the required information in the time scale afforded by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Yours sincerely,

Rod Cooke

Letter two

9th February 2016

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council.

Dear Clerk, Chair and Councillors,

Meeting of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council 15th November 2016

The minutes of the above meeting have an item recorded below the official record as follows:

  1. To consider correspondence relating to local charities: Councillors had all received copies of correspondence relating to the Ellingham United Charities and Sand & Gravel Charities.  The chairman and clerk explained their consultations with the solicitor at NP Law and the advice that had been given, namely that the council did not insure the lands in question, was not registered as owning them, and did not have them on its asset register.  Even if the correspondent could prove that the council had once owned them, the law of adverse possession would have long ago extinguished any rights.  Also, the council could not be forced to own something it did not wish to own.  The solicitor’s advice was that if the correspondent wished to take the matter further they would have to apply to the High Court at their own expense for a declaration that the council owned the land, and would have to prove their case to the court’s satisfaction and overcome the law of adverse possession.  The solicitor’s advice was to respond that the council did not own the land and would not enter into any further correspondence on the matter, and the clerk should file any further correspondence and not take any action.  His opinion was that no court would criticise the council for this action.  Councillors agreed that the clerk should reply to the correspondent accordingly, and add “as previously stated” and “[any correspondence] whatsoever”.  Councillors also approved that, subject to the outcome of the Ellingham United Charities forthcoming meeting, the clerk should reply to the correspondent to re-confirm that it was not possible to make a donation to the Sand & Gravel Charity.

As there is no evidence whatsoever of this item being considered at a properly constituted meeting:

I am now asking via the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for copies of the correspondence, email or otherwise, between the Clerk, Chair and other councillors concerning Item 18 from below the minutes of the November 15th 2016 meeting. I am also asking for full details of councillors present for Item 18, those who took part in discussions, what dispensations were asked for and given and what interests were declared.

Whilst I will communicate this request via recorded delivery post, I will take the date for the start of FoI proceedings as from the date of this email.

I look forward to receiving the required information in the time scale afforded by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Yours sincerely,

Rod Cooke

Letter three:

08/03/2017 – 16:26

Dear Mr Cooke

Thank you for your email of 9 February 2017 where you requested information about:-

I am now asking via the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for copies of the correspondence, email or otherwise, between the Clerk, Chair and other councillors concerning Item 18 from below the minutes of the November 15th 2016 meeting. I am also asking for full details of councillors present for Item 18, those who took part in discussions, what dispensations were asked for and given and what interests were declared.”

And

“Owing to the absurdity of the above statements, I am now asking via the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for copies of the correspondence, email or otherwise, between the Clerk, Chair and the NP Law solicitor; or, copies of minutes taken, or notes made, during face to face meetings, or telephone conversations with the NP Law solicitor. Also copies of any memos, emails, or other communications between the Clerk and the Chair, other councillors. I also wish to have the reference from NP Law so that I, or my legal representative, can contact them.”

The parish council is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious or complied with a request for information which was made by any person, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request.

We consider that these items are vexatious and are substantially repeat requests as they relate to issues which have frequently been raised and dealt with by Kirby Cane & Ellingham Parish Council in the past.

If you are unhappy with this response, or you wish to complain about any aspect of the handling of your request, then you should contact me in the first instance.  If informal resolution is not possible and you are still dissatisfied, then you may apply for an independent internal review by contacting John Cook, Chairman, KC&E Parish Council at kceclerk@gmail.com.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Jane Love

Clerk to Kirby Cane & Ellingham Parish Council

01508 518375

Letter four:

Re: Freedom of Information request made on 9th February 2017

08/03/2017 – 19:41

Dear Clerk,

I find it very difficult indeed to understand how it is that my request for information about what seems to be an unlawful act by KC&EPC can be seen as “vexatious”. You state:  We consider that these items are vexatious and are substantially repeat requests as they relate to issues which have frequently been raised and dealt with by Kirby Cane & Ellingham Parish Council in the past. I have not asked for this information other than in my questioning of the mishandling of the November 2016 minutes and FoI request of the 9th February. I also question the we in your statement, I am unaware that there has been a meeting of KC&EPC to discuss the matter of my FoI request.; I wonder; Who are the we? I believe that there is a requirement for Agendas to be published before any meetings, sub-committee or otherwise.

Indeed, I am very unhappy with your response and wish to complain in the strongest possible terms at your refusal to comply with the FoI Act and also about the length of time that you have taken to send me your response.

I do hope that you will respond in good time in dealing with my two complaints herein.

As always, I reserve the right to publish all correspondence in the pursuit of full transparency.

Yours sincerely,

Rod Cooke

 

 

Paper presented to the Clerk and Councillors of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC) by Councillor Rod Cooke BA(Hons), MA. Jan 2016

Parish Assets belonging to the Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC); including land and investments presently managed by the trustees of Kirby Cane Charity (1079345) and Ellingham United Charity (255749).

Lack of curiosity, indifference and referral to inconsequential decisions made at past Parish Council meetings, have been allowed by the present Parish Council (April 2014) to sideline this issue, I feel. However, as policies and protocols neglected by previous Parish Councils are now adopted, measures can be taken to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated in the future. It must be stated here that the following evidence has nothing to do with the decision taken at the January 2014 meeting of KC&EPC regarding the two above mentioned charities. This paper concerns the ownership of lands and investments at present managed by the trustees of the two mentioned charities.

That the Parish Council as Custodian Trustees has a legal (fiduciary) and moral duty to investigate just what property it owns cannot be denied. I believe that to ignore this situation will place the Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council in a situation of ultra vires inasmuch as it would be a failure to protect the assets of the council.

Furthermore, the Financial Regulations adopted by the KC&EPC councillors makes it very clear that it is also the duty of the Clerk to protect the assets of the council:

  1. PROPERTIES AND ESTATES

1        The Clerk shall make appropriate arrangements for the custody of all title deeds of properties owned by the Council, recording the location, extent, plan, reference, purchase details, nature of interest, tenancies granted, rents payable and purpose for which held in accordance with regulation 4 (3) b of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 1996.  

  1. No property shall be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of without the authority of the Council save where the estimated value of any one item does not exceed £50.

It is the duty, I feel, of KC&EPC councillors to support the Clerk to comply with the legal obligations placed upon her by the Financial Regulations. This should include making finance available and also offering the option to engage legal representation if necessary.

There are two points that I would wish to make very clear here:

  1. To repeat, these actions are in no way connected with the present arrangements for management of the lands and investments by the trustees of Kirby Cane Charity (1079345) and Ellingham United Charity (255749). (Management is a matter being pursued elsewhere with the Charity Commissioners and the Member of Parliament.)
  1. The involvement of other parties, such as the External Auditor, County solicitors and Charity Commissioners, should be sought in order to try to settle these matters for the future.

The evidence is presented as follows:

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Villages Parish Property as seen in the historic record and as requiring investigation at this time:

The property of the combined villages is in three parts:

  1. Land bequeathed to the villagers in times past; including the Sand and Gravel Charity given in the twentieth century.
  2. Land given for the use of the poor at the time of the enclosures of the commons.
  3. Investments which comprise of monies left by benefactors in the past and the proceeds of land and property sales from 1 above.

What is this land and what are the investments?

  1. The land is quite easily identified from the Enclosure Award maps and Schedule, the Tithe maps and Schedule, and the Land Registry: there are 67 acres of which 25 acres are land that was given at the time of the enclosures.
  1. The investments are a little more difficult to identify but are in the region of £70,000 to £80,000.

The following map shows all of the Parish Land at present managed, not owned, by the trustees of Ellingham United Charities and Kirby Cane Charity.

What is the legal position?

The Local Government Act 1894 states at Section 6:

  1. Transfer of certain powers of vestry and other authorities to parish council.

(1) Upon the parish council of a rural parish coming into office, there shall be transferred to that council:—

(a) The powers, duties, and liabilities of the vestry of the parish except:

(i) so far as relates to the affairs of the church or to ecclesiastical charities; and

(ii) any power, duty, or liability transferred by this Act from the vestry to any other authority:

(b)The powers, duties, and liabilities of the churchwardens of the parish, except so far as they relate to the affairs of the church or to charities, or are powers and duties of overseers

(c)The powers, duties, and liabilities of the overseers or of the churchwardens and overseers of the parish with respect to

(i). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . F2

(ii)The provision of parish books . . . F3 or matters relating thereto; and

(iii)The holding or management of parish property, not being property relating to affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity, and the holding or management of village greens, or of allotments, whether for recreation grounds or for gardens or otherwise for the benefit of the inhabitants or any of them;

Paul Clayden (p173 The Parish Councillors Guide – Shaw and Sons 2009) puts the 1894 Act into modern parlance:

“Parish property includes old parish workhouses and cottages provided by the overseers before the establishment of boards of guardians under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834; lands acquired for the employment of the poor; vestry rooms; parochial offices; land allotted under an inclosure award to be used as village greens; recreation grounds, field gardens, or otherwise for the benefit of inhabitants. Property formerly held by the board of guardians was transferred to the parish council by section 115 of the Local Government Act 1929.”

“The legal interest in all property which was formerly vested either in the overseers or in the churchwardens and overseers of the parish, other than property connected with the affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity, is vested in the parish council, subject to all trusts and liabilities affecting the same.”

So it can be seen that, as there are only very small ecclesiastical monetary endowments in the village charities, there are no reasons to suppose that the legal transfer of lands and investments held by Ellingham and Kirby Cane churchwardens and overseers of the poor were not transferred by the 1894 Act to the new Parish Council.

What does this mean for the present Parish Council and the two charities involved; Kirby Cane Charity and Ellingham United Charities?

There are two separate issues for discussion here:

  1. Who has the legal title to the lands and investments?
  2. The management of the investments and the capital.
  1. Who has the legal title to the lands and investments?

All of the evidence from the historic record would seem to show that no land was ever left for ecclesiastical purposes. Other than very minor monetary bequests, there were no ecclesiastical charities in the two villages. This was confirmed by the Charity Commissioners in the early 1900’s.

(Note: By the terms of the 1918 Scheme of Governance of the Ellingham United Charities the Charity Commissioners identified land and property from the Ellingham Charities which it called the Estate Branch and gave a half share (moiety) of the income from this to Ellingham Church. This action was very strongly contested by the then Parish Council but, under the threat of legal action from the then Rector, they seem eventually to have accepted the position. This liability upon the Ellingham United Charities does not affect the legal title to the lands and property of the Estate Branch.)

The evidence is therefore that; “The legal interest in all property which was formerly vested either in the overseers or in the churchwardens and overseers of the parish, other than property connected with the affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity, is vested in the parish council, subject to all trusts and liabilities affecting the same.”

  1. The management of the investments and the capital.

The phrase highlighted in green above ensures that the wishes of the original benefactors concerning the distribution of income to the “poor”, or whatever good cause, will be a management requirement upon the trustees of the property involved. These days it is possible for the trustees to vary these wishes by changing Clauses within the Scheme of Management only with the agreement of the Charity Commissioners.

As was seen above, the parish property in the form of land is in two parts; that given by benefactors and that awarded by the Enclosures Acts.

The income from the land given by benefactors was; “…subject to all trusts and liabilities affecting the same.” However, the land awarded by the Enclosure Acts (Poor’s Allotment) was specifically for the benefit of the landless classes and subject to the Allotments Act 1882. The income from these “Poor’s Allotments” has for many decades been incorporated into the Schemes of Management of both sets of charities and made; “… subject to all trusts and liabilities affecting the same.” This has deprived the villagers of the proceeds, or use, of these lands and left it in the hands of the trustees to distribute else wise.

Matters related to “Poor’s Allotments”:

  • Around100 metres further down Newgate Lane past the present allotment site is a field of 5 acres. This field is known as “Poor’s Allotment”. It was land allotted to the “poor” of Kirby Cane in the early 1800’s to compensate for the loss of Common Land. This “Poor’s Allotment” was vested in the “parochial authorities” for the benefit of the poor.
  • Similarly, Ellingham has nearly 20 acres of such land called the “Poor’s Allotment” allotted in the early 1800’s to compensate for the loss of Common Land. This land lies down past Butterfly Corner.
  • The Parish Council is now, and has been since 1894, in the position of being the “parochial authorities” and as such has a duty of management of this land. Failure by the Parish Council to manage its lands and investments has allowed mismanagement to occur; as the following example shows:
  • Relevant here is the matter of EU subsidies on agricultural land; these are set at £85 per acre this year and we might wonder who is claiming this subsidy. Research shows that it is being claimed by somebody on Ellingham’s land but, as the low land rents show, this money is not finding its way back to the land owners; i.e. the Parish Council. Secrecy adopted by the Kirby Cane trustees does not allow, so far, identification of whether or not, or who, is claiming subsidy on that land. The accounts show that they are not going to the charity.
  • A very close estimate of possible sums involved can be seen based upon 2012/13 figures: 67 acres at £85/acre = £5,695 per annum. Subsidies have been claimed on this land since 2005. So at today’s prices this is a possible loss to the villages of £46,560. At the very least, the Ellingham lands being claimed for are around 40 acres; this equates to around £27,000 at today’s prices.

Here follows evidence taken from the original documents:

The photographs shown here on the original doc sent can be found elsewhere on this site. The written entry on the Enclosure Award which confirms the land awarded to the poor at the time of the Enclosures:

Allotment for the poor of Ellingham 1806

These details are taken, verbatim, from the Enclosure Awards maps and details held at the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich. (DN ITA 710) It should be remembered that the Enclosure Award is in effect the deed of ownership. Transcript is:

And we the said Commissioners do hereby assign set out and attest to the Right Honourable Harbord Lord Suffield Lord of the Manor of Stockton with the Soke William Johnson Lord of the Manor of Ellingham Nevells and the Lord of the said respective Manors for the time being Roger Hall clerk the present Rector of the Rectory and parish church of Ellingham and his successors for the time being Rectors of the said Rectory and to the present churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the said parish of Ellingham and their successors for the time being respectively being churchwardens and overseers of the parish in trust for the use and benefit of the poor persons residing in the said parish of Ellingham Twenty Acres of land in Ellingham (Then follows a long description of where the land is and whose land it abuts.) And we do hereby declare that we have caused the said allotment to be inclosed ditched and fenced on the East South East and to est (establish?) parts thereof and against the bounds of Geldestone by and at the expence of the several proprieters of estates in the said parish of Ellingham and we do hereby order that the same fences shall be maintained and kept in repair by the trustees of the said allotment for the time being for ever.”

There is ample evidence in the historic record for the councillors of both Kirby Cane and Ellingham strongly defending the property of the villages. There is also evidence in the historic record that councillors were aware of their new powers in 1894, and later, to control the assets of the villages.

In 1895, Kirby Cane Parish Council declared that the “lower school room” had been “taken over as parish property” and was to be called “the Parish Council Room”.

I have also mentioned ownership of the Bus Shelter and land abutting it; the Sand and Gravel land was given to the Parish Council. These assets, and possibly others, have been missing from the parish record for a number of years and I have asked for an inventory to be started. Further information concerning the history of parish assets can be found on the website: https://kirbycaneandellingham.com/

I do hope that my suggestions regarding the involvement of other parties can be taken up and that councillors will assist the Clerk in the performance of her duties in a wholehearted manner.

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The Clerk,

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

Feb 2016

Dear Clerk and Chair,

I have obtained up to date information for the transfer of ownership of land in 1894 through the good offices of the MP for South Norfolk, Mr Richard Bacon. The legislation mentioned in my researches still stands on the statute books. I quote from his letter:

Implications of the legislation

Section 6 of the 1894 Act, and section 115 of the 1929 Act, are still in force. Indeed, if property was transferred under the 1894 Act, this would remain the case even if the Act were repealed. The property would not revert to its previous owner(s).

The Local Government Act 1972 reconstituted the entire system of local government in England and Wales. Where a council’s area did not change, it would remain in existence and retain the property it owned before the passing of the Act.

That leaves the question; did either of the two Parish Councils – Kirby Cane and Ellingham – ever transfer ownership of the land and assets to Kirby Cane Charity and Ellingham United charities? I have spent a considerable amount of time researching the old minute books for both Parish Councils and have found no record for the ownership of any land and assets having been transferred. Quite the contrary in fact; both Parish Councils were, in 1894, very vociferous in claiming their rights to the lands and assets held by the previous parish authorities.

What we do find in the village archives are documents to prove that the land and assets do indeed belong to the villagers and that they were left for the use of the villagers.

The Sand and Gravel Charity is slightly different from the other charities in-as-much as it was land given in recent times; Scheme is dated 1980. It was given specifically into the hands of Ellingham Parish Council and vested (for safe keeping) with the Charity Commission. The Scheme of Governance for the charity demands that the trustees be as follows:

TRUSTEES.

  1. Trustees. – The body of Trustees shall consist when complete of four competent persons who shall be appointed by the Parish Council of Ellingham. Except at first, as hereinafter provided each appointment shall be made for a term of four years at a meeting convened and held according to the ordinary practice of the council. The chairman of the meeting shall cause the name of each person appointed to be notified forthwith to the trustees or their clerk. The person appointed may be but need not be a member of the council.

There is of course a breach of trust by Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council as they do not appoint trustees specifically to this charity. Furthermore they allow non-trustees of this charity to have a say in the management of the charity. Also, KC&EPC do not list the land concerned as an asset in the councils Register of Assets which is a breach of the council’s fiduciary duties.

The MP has also advised me of the details of where I might get help from a Pro Bono Barrister in order to pursue this matter. Can I emphasise that I have no wish to take this route but, continued intransigence by councillors to deal with the matter could leave this as my only recourse to getting it resolved.

I have shown how easy it would be to bring Parish Assets back into democratic and transparent control, and away from the secret society type management that has failed so miserably over the past many years. I and others are willing to sit down with councillors and present trustees in order to achieve a lasting solution that will leave villagers fully confident that their lands and assets are well managed and wholly within their control.

I look forward to receiving confirmation of receipt of this letter and am hopeful that KC&EPC will accept its legal responsibilities for proper oversight of Parish Land and Assets.

Yours faithfully,

Rod Cooke     This letter is in the public domain

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25th October 2016

The Clerk

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

Dear Clerk, Chair and Councillors,

I have been asked by KC&EPC to provide evidence for the council being the owners of land and assets at the moment managed by the trustees of Kirby Cane Charity and Ellingham United Charities. I have sought to do this by providing copies of the legal documents and the 1894 Act of Parliament along with confirmation from the office of the Minister of State for Local Government, via the MP Mr Richard Bacon, that the 1894 Act is still in force. I recently re-submitted this evidence to the council as I believed that a number of councillors were unaware of the facts. I have not been informed by the Clerk as to whether this evidence was circulated to councillors. Further to that evidence I am now attaching a PDF file and an internet link that relates to:

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE, CHANCERY DIVISION

Miss Vivien Rose QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the Chancery Division) HC12C00065  

SUSAN SNELLING ROY MERISON Claimants/Appellants

 – and –

BURSTOW PARISH COUNCIL Defendant/Respondent

http://www.ala.org.uk/sites/default/files/2013EWCA1411.pdf

This, as councillors will see (item 6 and others), concerns matters relating to the right of ownership of land that was given in trust for the poor of Burstow at the time of their enclosures. At this present time I am asking that KC&EPC concerns itself only with the twenty acres down Butterfly Corner and the five acres down Newgate Lane i.e. land given at the time of enclosures in trust for the poor of the two villages. (I will mention the Sand and Gravel Charity later). The attached document shows that the Judges hearing the above case used the 1894 Local Government Act to confirm that ownership of the lands given at enclosure do indeed rest with Parish Councils.

There are other examples where precedent has been set by the courts confirming ownership of lands transferred by the Local Government Act of 1894. However, I believe that an appeal in the High Court of Justice should be enough confirmation for ownership by KC&EPC of our above mentioned parcels of land.

With regard to the Sand and Gravel Charity land; as this land was given to Ellingham Parish Council in the 1980’s, and the gift is well recorded in the minute books of EPC, there can be no question as to ownership; KC&EPC are the legal owners. The Sand and Gravel Charity must appear as an asset on the KC&EPC Register of Assets.

I have been researching these matters for a number of years and have kept KC&EPC informed at all times. These research findings have been met with much hostility by a number of councillors and there has been a marked lack of interest in protecting the assets that rightfully belong to the villages. I do believe that I have now provided enough concrete evidence for councillors to act upon and to bring these parish assets back into the full control of KC&EPC. I shall be copying this correspondence to the MP and asking for further advice regarding any legal steps that I can take in order to ensure that KC&EPC accepts its legal responsibilities regarding parish land and assets. I do hope that legal steps will not be required.

Yours faithfully,

Rod Cooke

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5th November 2016

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

Dear Clerk, Chair and Councillors,

Re. Parish Land and Assets.

Having been asked to provide evidence for Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC) being owners of investments and lands amounting to around 67 acres plus tens of thousands of pounds worth of investments, at present managed by the trustees of Ellingham United Charities (255749) and Kirby Cane Charity (1079345), I have provided the following:

  • January 26th 2016; I sent a sixteen page document with full details of all of the land and assets in question including the history of how these came to be given to the villagers of Kirby Cane and Ellingham. Also included were full details of the Local Government Act of 1894 which gave legal ownership of these lands and assets to the respective parish councils.
  • February 3rd 2016; having had confirmation from the MP for South Norfolk, Mr Richard Bacon, that the 1894 Local Government Act was still in force and supported by later Acts of Parliament, I conveyed this to the Clerk. No explanation was received from the Clerk as to why, it seems, this matter had not been put to the full council.
  • March 4th 2016; without, it seems, consulting the full council about the detailed document the Clerk wrote an email as follows:Dear Mr Cooke, Thank you for your email/letter of 3 February. I note the points you make. The Parish Council does not accept your proposition that there is land which it currently owns but does not record in its list of assets. You will need to take your own advice as to any further steps you might take. The Parish Council will not enter into correspondence on this matter. 

No mention of the evidence sent is seen in the minutes of KC&EPC for their meetings of March, May and July 2016 and I have heard nothing since the above email of March 4th 2016.

  • August 31st 2016; I resubmitted this document for the September meeting.

Again, no mention of the evidence sent is seen in the minutes of KC&EPC at their September meeting; there were no explanations as to why this paper had not appeared on the agenda and no contact made with me to explain the failure to act by KC&EPC.

October 25th 2016; having conducted further research, and having been in contact with other parish councils, I have been able to forward to KC&EPC full details of a ruling from the Court of Appeal in the High Court of Justice. In their deliberations the judges relied upon the 1894 Local Government Act to determine that a parish council did own lands transferred by that Act.

The failure by KC&EPC to act upon the very detailed research that has been supplied to them has a number of implications:

  • As a public body KC&EPC must not ignore an Act of Parliament; to do so would be illegal.
  • There are huge financial sums involved as well as the 67 acres of land for which there is a duty upon the Clerk to keep a record of.
  • There does not seem to be any evidence that the papers that I have submitted to KC&EPC have been circulated to all councillors. If they have, then it would seem that there has been maladministration as nothing appears in the minutes.
  • Finally, whilst there are few avenues for an individual to claim redress from a parish council, the police and Local Government Ombudsman can still rule in matters such as maladministration and illegal activities.

Having researched these issues for a number of years, and having in the past seen a parish council reclaim such lands for the benefit of the parishioners, I have been dismayed at the attitude of KC&EPC councillors towards looking after these assets. There have been extreme levels of animosity directed towards me, well documented in the minutes of KC&EPC, which have spilled over into other aspects of village life. These should not be matters of personality, but matters relating to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of village assets.

I am asking that the above mentioned papers that have been in the possession of the Clerk, if not all councillors, since January of this year be placed on the agenda for the November 2016 meeting of KC&EPC.

Yours faithfully,

Rod Cooke

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