Runnymede eco-village get stay of execution in eviction proceedings so High Court can consider whether they were given an adequate hearing in “exceptional case” | OCCUPY DEMOCRACY #onn #olsx #radicalassembly #commons
Notorious bailiffs for luxury property developers arrive on site but told to stand down
Judge describes the case as “exceptional” due to its location and history, noting significance of “competing” interests
Villagers appeals to Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest may not have been adequately addressed by lower court
Residents of the Runnymede eco-village are celebrating after the High Court in London granted them a stay of execution in possession proceedings (Tuesday 23rd June) sought by Orchid Runnymede Limited who want to develop the land with the Royalton Group for the elite property market .
Mr Justice Knowles prevented Orchid Runnymede’s enforcement of a summary order of possession and directed them to immediately stand down bailiffs who had arrived at the village prior to the hearing. The villagers, many of whom had stayed at the eco-village to hold off the bailiffs had feared a Dale Farm-style clearance by the contracted bailiffs company Constant & Co . The judge questioned the need for a forthwith order and this is a matter that the villagers will raise at the appeal hearing, given the families and livestock on the land.
Mr Justice Knowles ruled the stay of execution was necessary so the Court of Appeal could properly assess whether the eco-village residents were given a full and fair hearing in Guildford County Court on 15th June – the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta . The villagers’ case included assertions of rights under the Magna Carta, its companion Charter of the Forest and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Justice Knowles recognised the powerful symbolism of the competing interests in this “exceptional” case when he ruled:
“Given the exceptional location and the history associated with [Runnymede & Coppers Hill Coppice], and the competing and directly differing interests – one seeking possession of ancient forest [for private development] the other side seeking to remain on a site occupied for three years [and to continue to subsist in common from the land].”
In granting an adjournment, Mr Justice Knowles accepted that many matters previously raised by the applicants might not of been dealt with adequately by the lower Court, or dealt with in an insufficient manner, and directed an adjournment so this could be established .
“One of the criticisms of the applicants was although the judge dealt with some issues, such as licensing matters, other issues were dealt with either not at all, or hardly at all. ”
A note of the hearing has been included as an Appendix to this press release.
Barrister Michael Paget acting for one of the appellants said:
“It is surprising that where there has been a long-term peaceful occupation of a unique site that the judge decided not to consider the human rights arguments beyond a summary assessment.”
The judgment potentially reopens the legal question of whether commoners should have the right to subsist on disused land as provided for by the Magna Carta’s companion Charter of the Forest, as well as natural and common law rights to live on the land.
One of the appellants, Pete Phoenix said:
“Today was a major victory for civil liberties and land rights, opening the discussion over access to land to enable people to live in a low-impact, sustainable and off-grid way.”
Julie Timbrell of New Putney Debates and Occupy Democracy, groups who are among those helping the villagers with their legal case, said:
“The Villagers sense of the lower court judgment was that property rights trumped all other rights. But villagers contended that this is wrong in principle and that the judge failed to address properly the villagers’ right to sustain themselves in the common realm, to live on waste land and to feed and house themselves through their own efforts, in community. Villagers pointed out that the Charter of the Forest, the companion to the Magna Carta, gave these rights”
1. Orchid Runnymede Limited are registered offshore and their development agent is luxury property developers Art Estates who are part of the Royalton Group. According to the Art Estates website [http://www.artestates.co.uk/magna-carta-park/] the development will provide “grand living” at “an aspirational address … set in 67 acres of beautiful parkland … with close proximity to Windsor Great Park [and] Royal Ascot.”
5 For background on the Charter of the Forest & Magna Carta please see this video by “The Magna Carta Manifesto” author Peter Linebaugh. The video was recorded as a message to Runnymede eco-villlage for the Festival of Democracy on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta on 15 June 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn60cAr4n4I&feature=player_embedded