Judge ends years-long dispute over who owns small patch of village land

The pathway off The Green in Thornham. Picture: Ian Burt

The pathway off The Green in Thornham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

A judge has sided with a parish council after its years-long dispute with a local landowner over who owned a small patch of land.

Thornham Parish Council was taken to court by landowner Jocelyn Patrick who owns two parcels of land north of The Green.

In May 2015, Mr Patrick made an application to the Land Registry to register the eastern and southern boundaries of the land between his field and a track known as Shore Road.

This was rejected by the parish council and the former Norfolk police and crime commissioner Stephen Bett who is a trustee of the common surrounding the land in dispute.

A two-day tribunal at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court was held in May in which Mr Patrick's solicitor Jonathan Eales stated that Mr Patrick had dug the ditches which run along the eastern strip and southern boundary of the track in 1987 to drain his land.

But several witnesses on behalf of the parish council, including chairman Antony Needham, said the ditch had always been there long before Mr Patrick acquired the land in 1984.

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In his written judgement, Judge Simon Brilliant decided in favour of the parish council, stating: 'The evidence is overwhelming that there was a ditch on the eastern side in 1984. This does undermine Mr Patrick's credibility as he was adamant that there was no ditch there.

'No doubt, Mr Patrick has carried out work to the ditches, and the sea defences on the eastern side, but it has been work of maintenance rather than the creation of anything new.'

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But Judge Brilliant added that the parish council's evidence had to be scrutinised with care, adding: 'It is clear that Mr Patrick is not a popular figure in the village. This may influence the evidence of the witnesses.

'It appears to me that the village is a place where the ordinary villagers are still in the thrall of the local squirearchy. Again, this may influence the evidence of the witnesses.'

He also criticised the way in which the parish council's witnesses used the same words and sentences in their statements, describing this as 'an extremely lazy way of preparing the case.'

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