It is well documented that there have been issues over ownership and charging at the Town’s Hard over many years. After a public meeting in 2015, the Town Council made a commitment to research those issues and, if need be, solve them – something previous councils had not done.
To this end three Town Councillors visited the Highways Authority at Essex County Council to ascertain the status of any highway on the Hard. After the meeting, Essex County Council stated in writing that it was unable to find any original documentation supporting the view that there was a highway of any status at the Hard.
In 2015 a challenge concerning the registration of the Hard was made by a resident, which attempted to gain control of the Hard by adverse possession. This challenge was dismissed by Land Registry. In 2016 the same resident made another registration challenge. During this time, allegations of fraud, criminal behaviour and incompetence were made against the Council and the Town Clerk. Bearing in mind the Council’s actions had been taken by a previous administration and not the current one, the decision was made to protect the current councillors and Town Clerk from these allegations, and to safeguard the community’s assets.
As part of its actions to safeguard the community’s assets, the Council employed a part-time member of staff to gather information about the Hard. This information proved to be extremely valuable when a subsequent application was made to the Land Registry by the same resident for part of the Hard to be de-registered.
Legal advice was to oppose the application which, had it been unopposed, could have seriously jeopardised the standing of the jetty. Attempts at mediation between the Council and the resident failed and in order to gain a definitive ruling on the issues, the Council took the decision to go to Tribunal.
At the end of the hearing, the judge deregistered two strips of land and stated that: “In my judgement the effect on the Council of losing title to the land on which the jetty was built would be seriously detrimental.” He therefore confirmed that the land upon which the jetty is built would remain in Brightlingsea Town Council’s possession.
The judge added that “each party had won and lost in equal measure.”
We are awaiting advice from our solicitors on the consequences of the entire judgement, and will post these again once they have been received.