Costly victory for Ringwood Town Council after land ownership dispute with Tudor Rose Farm over part of The Bickerley
IT was a costly victory for Ringwood Town Council after a land ownership dispute left it out of pocket by thousands.
The battle for a narrow strip on the northern edge of the common at The Bickerley was sparked by Tudor Rose Farm applying to Land Registry in December 2020 to remove it from the council’s registered title.
Opposing the application a month later, the council won a first-tier tribunal hearing in July this year. But it did not find this out until September when a written judgement was issued.
The fight cost the council £43,049 – plus VAT – which comprised fees from solicitors, counsels and the Land Registry, as well as other experts.
Town clerk Chris Wilkins told a recent policy and finance committee meeting the matter was taken to tribunal after a failed attempt to settle it amicably.
The process took many months, including mutual disclosure of documents, exchange of witness statements, and gathering and exchange of expert evidence.
There was a site visit by the judge, attended by the parties’ representatives, before the all-day hearing was held via video conference.
The decision was reserved by the judge, and an administrative error further delayed announcement of his decision.
In late August, it was announced the judge found in favour of the council, and the tribunal ordered the Land Registry to cancel the application.
The Land Registry has since confirmed it has done so and the title remains with the council.
Seeking full payment of its costs, the council was offered £28,000 by Tudor Rose Farm, which Mr Wilkins decided to accept after legal advice warned a rejection would incur further delay and expense with no assurance of a better outcome.
This has left the council with a shortfall of £15,049.
The land remains in public ownership and open to public access and is also part of the registered town or village green.
A neighbour has been keeping it tidy, but the clerk said he would be asked if he wishes to continue doing so or would prefer the council assume its responsibilities.
Committee members agreed the lawyers involved in the case should be credited for achieving a good result “in a matter not of the council’s choosing”.
Mr Wilkins added there had been no indication of an appeal before the deadline passed, believing the judgement was especially closely reasoned.