AFTER 13 years of battle with West Sussex County Council, a defiant Kirdford man is still fighting to uphold a land law which dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.
Edward Brent-Jones, 82, is continuing his campaign for Strood Green, a patch of land next to his home, which he is battling to have recognised as common land.
With a long-standing place in legal tradition, the law of commons arose from feudal Britain where individuals were entitled to use or take certain material from land belonging to another.
Strood Green was registered as common land in 1968, by the then owner of the property, Charles Woods.
“However, the commons registration authority omitted an area from the map, which they deny,” said Mr Brent-Jones.
“I am not allowed to put my provable case forward because WSCC will not allow me a proper hearing. They are the judge, jury and executioner.”
Mr Brent-Jones even felled a tree to prove he is ‘exercising’ his right of common over the land.
“I am defying the county council but exercising my right as a commoner,” he said.
“I’m trying to protect the land.” To register for rights of common, the applicant must show 30 years of ‘often’ and ‘uninterrupted’ use for grazing, cutting underwood, bracken and ‘taking stone’.
Mr Brent-Jones previously worked as a restoration and research officer, restoring land after coal mining. “I can perfectly well read a map, I worked for a the coal board and if I couldn’t read a map I would be no use to them,” he said.
Mike Morling, chairman of the Association of Bedham Commoners, said: “Some of our members have farmed in this area for a long time, and are aware that the area used to be common ground.
“However, recognition requires a certain impartiality on the side of the registration authority.”
West Sussex County Council is the freehold owner of the land, which they lease to Sussex Wildlife Trust for conservation.
Mr Brent-Jones said he brought two applications before the Rights of Way Committee in 2003 and 2004, both of which were denied.
As the Midhurst and Petworth Observer went to press yesterday, West Sussex County Council had not been able to respond with a statement.
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