Second-home owners in village green spotlight

THE issue of the high proportion of second-home owners in Beadnell reared its head again as a key topic in the public inquiry into two village green applications.

The inquiry, relating to sites at the Haven, or the Anchorage, and White Rock, will decide if the two sites have been used by inhabitants for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ for a period of at least 20 years, in this case 1990-2010, ‘without force, secrecy or permission’.

On Monday, at the end of the six-day inquiry in Seahouses, Nicola Allan, representing the objectors Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society and County Life Homes, pointed out the relevance of the term inhabitant in the village green legislation.

She argued that it ‘means more than simply to occupy from time to time’, suggesting that use of the disputed land by second-home owners may not count as evidence for village greens.

Charles Holland, for the applicants, disagreed, arguing that inhabiting is ‘living in or occupying a designated place in the locality’.

Miss Allan also highlighted the use of the land as working sites for the fishermen, particularly between 1990 and 1998.

She said that any recreational use was ‘sporadic and infrequent’ and was ‘not as a right due to the signs and the challenges made’.

But Mr Holland described the relationship between the fishermen and other users as ‘symbiotic’ and any challenges related to ‘nuisances’ such as dogs or divers.

He also suggested that the signs were ambiguous ‘due to the juxtaposition’ between the ‘Private’ and ‘No Dogs’ signs, as banning dogs is unnecessary if the entire area of land is private.

On Thursday and Friday last week, the inquiry heard from the objectors’ witnesses, including fishermen and residents.

A key theme running through the evidence was the fishermen’s protectiveness over their land with them being described as ‘fiercely protective’, ‘very fierce and protective’ and ‘large, unwelcoming chaps’.

Former resident Annette Manning, who now lives in Seahouses, said: “The only children I ever saw on the site would be fishermen’s children.

“There were black huts, which the fishermen used. You did not trespass on that land.”

Several witnesses also detailed challenges made by the fishermen to people on their land.

Beadnell resident Frank Burke recalled people being challenged on the Haven site ‘scores of times in the 1990s and 2000s’.

An important witness for the objectors was Katrina Porteous, a poet, writer and historian, who, between 1989 and 1996 except for two six-month periods spent ‘part of every day’ with the fishermen documenting their working lives.

As well as a witness statement Miss Porteous provided two reports on the history of the sites with photos, a magazine article and video footage.

Mr Holland questioned much of her evidence, including the dates on the photos and the accuracy of a plan of the various signs, and accused her of being an ‘informal advocate’ for the fishermen.

Suzanne and Richard Ranken, owners of a plot of land on the claimed White Rock site, also objected to the application pointing out that Mr Ranken’s father kept his boat trailer until 2004 on the land, which also housed a dead dog for two weeks around ten years ago.

In her statement, Mrs Ranken described their plot as having an ‘entirely different topography and vegetation from the rest of the land’.

“There are numerous rabbit holes with a very active rabbit population – an area not disturbed by people or dogs,” she said.

“There’s a very clear trodden path which skirts the boundary of the plot which we acknowledge and accept is used for access to the bench and the rocks, indicating people do not have to cross our land.”

The outcome of the applications is expected in January.