Monday, 26 July 2021

Council wins legal fight with Bond author’s heirs over land

Council wins legal fight with author’s heirs over school land

A LEGAL battle between the descendants of James Bond author Ian Fleming and Oxfordshire County Council has taken a new turn.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of an appeal by the council over the ownership of land in Nettlebed which the two sides disputed.

The council says the plot was gifted to it for use as a school. In 1914 and 1928, Mr Fleming’s grandfather Robert transferred almost an acre of land known as “the Fleming site” to be used for this purpose.

The school relocated to a bigger building in 2006 on adjacent land and the old site was sold to a property developer, Bluespace Property Nineteen, the following year for £1,355,000.

Heirs of Mr Fleming have been in dispute with the council as they feel they were entitled to the majority of the money made from the sale of the land.

Brothers Michael and Rupert Rittson-Thomas claimed this right under the Reverter of Sites Act 1987, which governs ownership rights when donated land is no longer used for particular purposes. They claimed that 93 per cent of site represented land gifted by Mr Fleming and that, because it had ceased to be used by the school before the sale, the ownership reverted to Mr Fleming’s estate.

The council argued that the Act did not apply as it had used the entire net proceeds of the land sale on providing the new school.

A High Court judge ruled in the council’s favour but in 2019 three Appeal Court judges overturned this decision in favour of the family.

Now the Supreme Court has granted the council’s appeal, saying that the Fleming site had not ceased to be used for the purposes of Nettlebed School, even after the school had moved, as it was always the council’s intention to use the proceeds of the sale to pay off the cost of the new school.

Anita Bradley, the council’s director for law and governance, said: “We are pleased this legal situation has now been fully resolved and that the ultimate result is that there has been no cost to the taxpayer.”

Mr Fleming, a Victorian merchant banker who died in 1933, built Joyce Grove, which was the Sue Ryder hospice until last March.

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