'Squatter' couple's planning bid to use patch of land as private garden
- Credit: Liz Coates
A couple are hoping planners will allow them to carry on using a vacant patch of land as their own after they fenced it off more than three years ago.
Donna and Kent Barron were "gobsmacked" to receive a letter from borough council enforcement officers in August asking them to apply for planning permission for a change of use, or take the fence down.
The patch of land in Blackbird Close, Bradwell, was once home to an electricity pylon but has been unoccupied for at least 20 years, Mr Barron said.
He said it was used as a dumping ground, and dog toilet, and was generally letting down the area.
The couple, who have four children between them, said they had made exhaustive enquiries of the Land Registry, the original builders of the homes, and the electricity company in a bid to establish ownership and hopefully buy the land.
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At the suggestion of the Land Registry they looked into the "adverse possession" route - essentially the same legislation used by squatters to establish rights.
It means they can apply for permanent possession after 12 years.
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Mrs Barron said she understood the council request had come about as the result of a complaint, more than three years after they had fenced around two thirds of the land off, leaving space for the bus stop.
She said they were keen to keep the land and more than happy to pay the market price for it if the owner could be found.
"Would we go to the high court and spend thousands? The answer is 'no'," she said.
"But we would like to keep it, of course."
Mr Barron said the electricity company had lodged "a caution" on the land probably because of cables it might need access to.
Because no-one could build on it or even put a play area on there it had little monetary value, he added.
Overall the couple would rather buy it to end any uncertainty.
"We have done our very best to try and do the right thing," Mrs Barron said.
"If you are the owner please knock on the door and we can have a cup of tea and talk about it." Mr Barron added.
Bradwell Parish Council has objected to the change of use "until such time as legal ownership of this land is resolved, after which time it is the intention of Bradwell Parish Council to install a bus shelter on a portion of this piece of land."
To view the plans visit the borough council's planning portal.