Guernsey Press

Ancient documents cited in dispute over Cobo car park

DOCUMENTS dating back hundreds of years are being cited in a Royal Court hearing this week in which the ownership of Cobo car park is being disputed.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 23282311)

The land has been the subject of a long-running disagreement over who has the rights to use it.

AW Holdings Ltd said that it bought the land from Kathleen June Holroyd, the Dame of the fief de Carteret, by a conveyance registered in December 2007.

The company is actioning the constables of Castel and is calling for a declaration that they do not own the property and have no right to carry out any works on it, or to control its use or to allow any other party to use it.

Mrs Holroyd had acquired the Fief de Carteret, which included this land, in 2004.

The company is calling for an injunction stopping the constables carrying out any more work ‘or otherwise interfering with it in the future’ and an order that they reinstate it to its former condition by removing the tarmac, kerbstones and signs and to replace boulders that were there previously and prevented cars being parked on the land.

AW Holdings is also seeking £10,000 in damages ‘for trespass and conversion’.

HM Procureur and HM Receiver General have been joined to the defendant as parties in the action.

The court hearing is due to last three days, and as it opened Advocate Nick Barnes, for the plaintiff, referred to extensive research carried out by States archivist Dr Darryl Ogier.

Dr Ogier’s two reports set out the history of the Fief de Carteret, which he has said appeared to have been in existence since the 11th or 12th centuries, with the earliest written record apparently dating from 1350.

Advocate Barnes said that the fact that the land was subject to ancient common rights was not disputed, but what these amounted to was disputed.

The land was once used for the over-wintering of boats and drying out of seaweed.

But these rights did not extend to the use of the land for car parking, he said: ‘We would dispute that [they do] to our last breath.’

In documents supplied to the court, defence Advocate Mark Dunster quoted a 1968 letter to the States from the then Seigneur of the fief, Colonel Bean, that said the common rights were referred to as ‘drying vraic, laying up their boats, or otherwise’.

It argued that as technology has advanced ‘or otherwise’ could refer to motorised vehicles.

Dr Ogier’s report is quoted as saying that it was self-evident that if the land was once used for drying seaweed ‘then carts (and perhaps in the twentieth century, motor vehicles) would have deposited and removed seaweed to and from that land.

Advocate Dunster also referred to the comment of the previous Dame, Mrs R. E. Bean, stating in a letter written in the early 80s that she did not own the property, ‘it is common land belonging to the people of the parish’.

He said that the plaintiff required more than just an assertion that the property belonged to it because it had become accepted over time: ‘If all a person had to do was to point over the fence for 20 years and say “that’s my property”, then the court would be inundated by spurious property claims.’

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