Guernsey Press

Dispute over Cobo car park ended by the Bailiff's ruling

CASTEL constables have been told they have the right to manage Cobo car park following a long dispute over ownership.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24289829)

The parish officials were being actioned by AW Holdings Ltd, which claimed it had bought the land from Kathleen June Holroyd, the dame of the fief de Carteret, by a conveyance registered in December 2007.

The company wanted a declaration that the constables did not own the property and had no right to carry out any works on it, or to control its use or to allow any other party to use it.

It also sought 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 which had prevented cars being parked on the land.

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

During a Royal Court hearing, evidence was heard from States archivist Dr Daryl Ogier, who outlined the history of the fief de Carteret, which he said appeared to have been in existence since the 11th or 12th centuries.

In his judgment, Bailiff Sir Richard Collas said he accepted the ‘research and careful analysis’ provided.

Among his findings was that the land was not in private ownership. ‘It is vacant land of fief St Michel, a fief of the Crown, which has been managed by the constables of the parish for many centuries for the benefit of inhabitants,’ he said.

‘My finding is that the disputed land does not lie on fief de Carteret and that the plaintiff has not established sufficient evidence of possession of the disputed land to bring an action in trespass against the constables.

‘Even if there was such evidence, I am not able to say whether the English legal principles relied upon by the plaintiff are part of Guernsey law and I would require further submissions from counsel as to the extent of the customary law of trespass in this island.’

He said that rather than simply dismissing the action, he would go further. He believed he had the best evidence that could be produced and it was ‘most unlikely’ that any further historic documents would ever be found.

‘It is in the public interest to bring the long-running dispute over the ownership of the disputed land to a conclusion,’ he said.

Based on the evidence available, the Crown in its capacity as seigneur of fief St Michel had the best claim to title.

Sir Richard said that the constables had the right to manage the disputed land on behalf of parishioners and other members of the public, ‘subject to any views the Crown may express whilst respecting the historic common rights to dry seaweed and to lay up boats’.