Saturday, 21 July 2018

Legal advice sought over land gift

BENSON Parish Council is to seek legal advice over the future use of a piece of land gifted to the

BENSON Parish Council is to seek legal advice over the future use of a piece of land gifted to the community.

The Bertie West Field was bequeathed to the parish council by Mr West following his death in 1979 on the condition that it was used as a children’s playground.

The council fears it may be at risk of legal action from a parishioner if the field is not used for this purpose.

In 2012 the council submitted outline plans for a new scout hut on the land but these were scrapped months later after opposition from residents.

Now it is to seek guidance from a barrister on options open for future use of the land, which is said to be worth about £50,000.

Councillor Dave Rushton told a council meeting last week that he was “very grateful” to Mr West for his gift to the village but added: “It’s a nightmare. We’d be open to a legal challenge with virtually anything we do with it.”

Councillor Pat Peers called the situation a “minefield” and suggested trying to have the covenant removed as there was no member of the West family alive today, only the executor.Members agreed to seek legal advice costing up to a maximum of £2,500 but not to act until Cllr Peers has reported back to the next meeting about the possibility of having the covenant lifted.

The scout hut plan caused concern among neighbours over access to the site and the threat of more traffic.

The council said people would reach the site on foot from Littleworth Path and that parking in Littleworth Road would be discouraged.

However, in January 2013 it withdrew the application. At the time, council chairman Jon Fowler said: “There was quite a lot of opposition from residents in Horseshoes Lane and South Oxfordshire District Council had indicated it was likely to refuse planning permission so we decided to withdraw the application.

“The council would still like to see the land put to use as per Mr West’s bequest and we’ll be looking to work with the residents of Horseshoes Lane in order to find a mutually agreeable solution that benefits the children of the village and local residents.”

The new hut would have replaced the scout hut in Littleworth Road, which is more than 100 years old and is the last existing hut in Oxfordshire to be visited by Lord Baden Powell.

The village scouts occasionally use the field for camping trips and one corner is used by Benson Primary School for allotments.

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