A blot on the landscape

In the corner of Manor Park, by the railway bridge on Malden Road, is an area of privately owned land, which is in a shocking state. It is an unsightly blot on our local landscape.

This land used to be part of Manor Park, but unbeknown to local residents it was actually railway land. In 2010 the railway company decided to sell the land. Kingston Council, for some reason best known to themselves, decided not to buy the land. At some point a speculator ended up acquiring the land with the hope of developing it.  We believe he paid £15,000. He then, in 2013, proceeded to dig up a small wooded copse, and effectively laid waste to the land.

No realistic chance of getting planning permission

Fortunately, there is little hope of getting planning permission to build on this land. For one thing, the land is crossed by overhead electricity cables, and secondly it is park land. The landowner has tried to progress various schemes including an allotment and squash courts, but has been unsuccessful. He erected temporary fencing around the perimeter, which has fell into a very poor state of repair, and has recently disappeared.

Limited options

The Friends of Manor Park has spoken with Kingston Council who say they have tried to license the land back from the owner within an arrangement that would see the land re-united with the rest of the park, but the landowner has gone to ground, and refused to respond to any of their communications. According to the previous Council Leader, Cllr Kevin Davis, who we spoke to on the 20th April 2018, the council has decided to pursue the option of a compulsory purchase order. It is hoped this will bring the landowner back to the table.

Our right-of-way

The Friends of Manor Park believe that the landowner tried to block an existing legal right of way diagonally across this land, initially by fencing off the land, and now simply by letting it become over-grown.

A legal right of way exists if a piece of land has been crossed for 20 or more years on a regular basis. There was a path across this land for much longer than twenty years. We have been advised by the Ramblers’ Association that the fact that the owner has restricted access for over 3 years now makes no difference to the legal right of way.

We asked the council a few months ago to go through the legal process of asserting this right of way, but as they now say they are focusing on the compulsory purchase order. The Friends of Manor Park is initiating this legal process ourselves, to put further pressure on the landowner. Once the right of way is asserted the land will become effectively worthless to the owner. He will no doubt at this stage understand that it would be wise to sell or licence the land back to the council

Regaining our right-of-way

In the meantime we asked the council to block the land against vehicular access. They have kindly installed bollards along the pavement in front of the land. Now with the land secure from vehicles, and with the fencing no longer blocking access, we would encourage everyone to make use of their THEIR legal right of way across the land.

Next steps

Local resident, Mark Kinge, is helping the Friends of Manor Park re-assert the legal right of way, by leading the legal process. Make no mistake the legal right of way exists, we simply need to assert it, we do  this by evidencing use over 20 years, serving notice on the owner, having the route marked on the council map of rights of way, and then getting the owner to maintain the path across the land for us.

You can help

There are a few ways you can help. If you used the old path across the privately owned land between 1989 – 2009, then please do get in contact, we’d appreciate your evidence. Secondly, the work of Friends of Manor Park, does cost money, and by joining our organisation as a Friend you will via your subscription help us to continue our work. And finally, do use your right of way – it’s your right.

Updated 4th June 2018