Sunday, 22 September 2019
FREEMASONS have denied clearing an area of their land in Watlington unlawfully.
The Icknield Way Lodge was responding to a decision by Watlington Parish Council last month to ask South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council to investigate.
Parish councillor Tim Horton also raised concerns about a steel security fence around the site, near Church Street.
The lodge says the fence was erected to protect pedestrians as it has a duty of care as the landowner, which it has been since 1970.
In a statement, it said that people had been trespassing on the land, adding: “After a look over the land we found damaged trees, broken bottles and a large amount of other things that we don't wish to detail.
“The trustees would be liable for any personal injury incurred on the land if we failed to secure the land and show a duty of care.”
The masons put up a green plastic fence but this was set on fire and the lodge had to report malicious damage to the police six times.
The statement continues: “We were left with no choice but to erect a steel security fence both to protect us and any pedestrians.
“This would have to remain in place until, firstly, the trees were made safe and pruned as necessary and, secondly, the waste materials had been picked up and disposed of properly.
“All this needed to be done for health and safety reasons and to ensure that we showed a duty of care.
“The works carried out were by a professional tree care company and with the authorisation of the district council.
“When the works were started the district council received some enquiries asking if we had permission and they were all advised that we had.”
The lodge said it had always had a good relationship with Watlington people but added: “Because some people have used it as a dog toilet and abused the land we had no option but to do what we have done.
“We appreciate that not everyone likes the look of the security fencing.
“This was not our first choice but because the neat green plastic fencing was destroyed.
“As this did not work, we had to revert to security fencing and that should be taken up with those responsible for the damage.”
The lodge also denied suggestions that there is a public right of way across the land, saying: “We have the signatures of 45 people between 60 and 100 years of age who were born, bred and still live in Watlington, who have signed to say that there never was a public right of way across the land.
“We have also had quite a number of people say that the work we have done, at great expense, has greatly improved the look of the land.
“They feel safer walking down the pathway with the fence there, especially at night.”
26 August 2019
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