- Judge says “You’ll have to use other methods to advance your cause”
- Private property rights of company trump human right to a home
- Rights to commons not fully explored by judge
A call-out for help to build the resistance to the imminent eviction of the eco-vilage on the historic Runnymede site of the birthplace of modern democracy has been issued following a judgement at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday which denied the right to appeal.
After considering a day’s worth of evidence Mrs Justice Simler ruled that Mr Justice Knowles in Guildford County Court was essentially correct when he ruled against the eco-villagers and in favour of the tax haven registered, luxury property developers Orchid Runnymede Ltd. [http://www.artestates.co.uk/magna-carta-park/].
Her judgement reaffirmed the priority given to companies whose property rights trump the qualified right to private and family life of the Applicant, as enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. A possession order was granted and eviction could now take place in the next two to six weeks.
The Judge ruled that none of the following factors were sufficient grounds to give the eco-villagers a “seriously arguable case” in relation to their right to stay on the land:
- the historic nature of the site
- the large and established community that has done so much for so many people who have been damaged by mainstream society
- the beautiful, creative low-impact dwellings that had been built
- the fact that the landowner had not been actively using the land since it acquired it in 2007 and was unlikely to develop the wood itself
- and the educational covenant on the land
This was despite the fact that the Judge noted there was no pressing social need for Orchid Runnymede’s development; that members of the eco-village may face difficulty finding other accommodation; and that the community had provided respite and sanctuary for people who had had difficulties in mainstream society.
The Judge recognised that the Magna Carta provision for the right to a fair trial was still on the statute books and was relevant to the case. The eco-villagers were clearly at a disadvantage in terms of access to proper legal representation and up against a six-strong team of corporate lawyers. However, the judge determined that the fact that the eco-villagers were unable to get legal aid did not affect the fairness of the case.
Judge repeatedly pointed out that she was bound to put aside any natural sympathies she may have and deal with the law as it stands and she drew on recent case law in particular.
Rights to the commons
The eco-villagers had raised strong and serious points in relation to their rights under the Magna Carta, Forest Charter and common law but the Judge said that these had all been repealed apart from three clauses of the Magna Carta the only one of which was relevant in this case was the right to a fair trial.
In fact, rights to the Commons, originating in the Charter of the Forest, continues by virtue of a clause in the act that repealed it: The Wild Creatures and Forest Act 1971. Section 5 states that: “no existing right of common or pannage originating in the forest law shall be affected by the abrogation of the forest law or by the repeal by this section of any enactment giving or confirming that right.” [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/47/section/1]. The judge ruled that the appellants had not established that the land was common land even though we made the point that people and their dogs had been walking on footpaths through the site since Saxon times.
In answering points raised by the appellants at the end of her judgement Simler said: “You’ll have to use other methods to advance your cause.”
Activists, tree climbers and tunnellers are being called upon to defend Runnymede eco-village by building defences in anticipation of the imminent arrival of bailiffs and police.
Single parent, Alexandra Rose, who has two young children and now faces eviction from the eco-village as well as from her other residence as a result of the bedroom tax said:
“If this is democracy and justice then it’s absolutely disgraceful. You are penalised for being poor and if you stand together as a community then you are victimised even further. Our community has been stamped all over. There is no democracy.”
Eco-village resident Lilias Rider Haggard Cheyne who is now facing eviction, said:
“The eco-village has given people a wonderful opportunity to express themselves by building beautiful buildings in the wood. The occupants live in harmony with nature and the village should be a national heritage site as it is an exemplary model of communal living in historic surroundings in the heart of England.”
Appellant Peter Phoenix said:
“This case illustrates how land rights and civil liberties have been diminished by successive governments. The judge ignored the evidence that we still have rights under the Forest Charter to subsist on disused and common land. There’s no justice so now it’s just us. Join us in the fight for homes and land for all!”
Notes for editors:
Some images of Runnymede dwellings can be found here:
For background on this case, see previous press releases:
- Runnymede appeal judgement at 2pm today
- Historic appeal case could set precedent for right to low-impact living
- Runnymede eco-village get stay of execution in eviction proceedings so high court can consider whether they were given an adequate hearing in exceptional case
- Festival of Democracy ends under the Ankerycke Yew tree with call for citizen-led constitutional convention