Nick Stevens' presentation

The Tyning – its purchase, management and maintenance

The Tyning land lies at the heart of the village of Freshford. It was registered as a Village Green on application made by Freshford Parish Council in 1970. It is made up of two parcels of land – the ‘red’ land of some 3.2 acres and the ‘blue’ land of some 2 acres. The red land is hedged and fenced and has been used as land for pasture and grazing. It forms part of land which is subject to a Farm Business Tenancy granted to local farmer Brian Godwin. The open blue land is managed and maintained by the Parish Council at the Council’s expense. The lower section of that land comprises wood land and is steeply sloped. The whole of the Tyning land is in private ownership. The Parish Council is in negotiation to purchase the land for the benefit of the community.

Can the land be developed?

The Tyning land enjoys layers of protection which safeguard its status as an open green space upon which no development can take place. The whole of the Tyning lies within the Green Belt, within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is in part a site of Nature Conservation Interest. It has added protection under the Village Green legislation and by virtue of the fact that it is within the Freshford and Sharpstone Conservation Area. Planning legislation also underpins the fact that no development can take place.  

What is its history?

The Tyning was bought in 1924 from the Joyce family by George Baker at a cost of £1300. The village raised the sum of £700 towards the purchase price. On behalf of the villagers 10 house owners then asked Mr Baker to agree with them to enter into a number of restrictive covenants to safeguard the land. Mr Baker agreed to do so and in return the village paid to him the £700 raised. (See the Covenants below)

The land passed into the ownership of George MacDonald in 1959 and has remained held by the MacDonald family since that time. The land was registered as Village Green in 1970. In support of that application the Parish Council produced the Restrictive Covenants as evidence of the fact that the villagers had the right to access the land for the purposes of sport and recreation.

The Parish Council published a Policy Document in 2003 which reviewed the use of the land and made clear that the value of the restrictive covenants made in 1924 has been effectively superceded by the legislative restrictions applying to village greens. Nothing in the covenants could affect the right of the local inhabitants to have open access to the whole of the Tyning whenever they chose to exercise those rights.

What are the restrictive covenants imposed in 1924?

The Covenants are as follows:
No buildings to be erected
Land cannot be used for gardening or allotments or other than as pasture or as a village green.
No fair shall be held on the land nor football played
While used as a village green games other than football may be played and seats placed on the land. No games can be played on a Sunday.

Freshford Primary School and The Tyning

The history of the school land is linked inextricably with the Tyning.
School completed in 1849 ( Shown as D on sketch plan)
Playground added in 1887 (Shown as E on sketch plan)
Additional land purchased in 1964 (Shown as F on sketch plan)
Major re-build completed in 2001 on the land purchased in 1964.( Land F)
B&NES Council Local Plan - .3 of an hectare reserved for the provision of a playing field area. (2003) (Shown as G on sketch plan)
Planning application withdrawn for use of land ‘above’ the school to be used as playing space.

The fact that B&NES Council continues by virtue of its Local Plan to have an interest in part of the Tyning land is a matter which needs to be recognised and taken into account should the Parish Council secure ownership of the land. For some years the Parish Council has sought with the school to find a way to secure for the school children access to a grassed safe play area on the Tyning red land. By opening up and making accessible to all the presently fenced red land this objective can become a reality. In addition the Council and School Governors wish to explore the possibility of improving road safety along Freshford Lane by placing a footpath on the Tyning which would have direct access into the school playground

What is a village green?

A village green is an open space upon which local inhabitants have an absolute right of access and to use the land for recreation and sport and other pastimes .There are some 3680 registered village greens throughout the U.K. and the majority of those are owned by the local parish councils.  The Tyning is a village green and is NOT common land. Common land is land on which local people have rights such as the right to take turf, the right to graze animals, the right to fish and so on.  The village green enjoys statutory protection under the Inclosure Act 1857 and the Commons Act of 1876.

Offences under the Village Green Legislation

Taking cattle or other animals onto a green without lawful authority
Laying manure, soil, ashes or rubbish on a green
Any act which causes injury to the green
Any act which interrupts the use or enjoyment of the green as a place of exercise and recreation
Encroaching onto the green
Enclosing a green by fencing it

Why does the Parish Council wish to buy the land?

To bring the land into community ownership
To place the emphasis on its use and enjoyment as village green.
To secure its long term future and protection through ownership management and maintenance. 
To avoid the increasing prospect of litigation 

Only recently the Senior Rights of Way Officer for the Council of Bath and North East Somerset re-affirmed his view that the red section of land should not be fenced. The Parish Council understand that there is some feeling within the local community to challenge the present owners over maintaining fencing on the red land. The Parish Council believe that if the land can be bought from the present owners a solution can be found that avoids  litigation or court proceedings.

The Pros and Cons of Purchase: to buy or not to buy

 PROCEED TO BUY                                    
Land placed in community ownership
The owners wish to sell to the community
A chance of a lifetime – land might otherwise pass into multiple ownership and/or other private ownership.
We can better manage community expectations
PC already manages and maintains open section
Neighbourhood Plan buy in.

NO SALE
Access to whole of village green denied. Matters remain as they are.
Land remains in private ownership.
No further costs incurred.
No management of community expectations
Increased prospect of litigation.

The steps in negotiations to purchase the land

The Parish Council first sought professional advice on the value of the land. Once that estimation had been received negotiations began with the Agent acting for the owners of the land. The owners indicated that they would be willing to sell the land to the local community. The owners have now indicated their acceptance of the offer made by the Parish Council subject to contract and to outstanding issues of costs and liability.

What are the next steps?

If negotiations can be successfully completed the Parish Council will move to appoint solicitors to act on its behalf to conduct the legal process. The view of the Parish Council is that the land should be purchased by the Council and owned by it. The Council is the accountable democratically elected body representing the interests of local residents and its proceedings are public and open. Application may be made by the Council to the Public Works Loan Board for a loan to fund the purchase. Any loan is just that and is not secured by a mortgage over the land. The Council must first seek approval to obtaining a loan through application to the Department of Communities and Local Government.  

How is the purchase to be funded?

If a loan can be put in place the Council will look to increase the Annual Precept from 2014/15 and onwards to raise sufficient funds to pay both for the loan repayments and the annual cost of maintenance and management of the land. To raise a further £4000 per annum would cost the average Band D Council Tax payer some £14 per annum. At the same time the Council will look to establish a Tyning Fund through which any individual or body can make voluntary donations to help fund the costs of the repayments and/or the costs of management and maintenance.

The management of the Tyning

The Council take the view that, all being well, and in the months leading up to completion, careful consideration can be given to determining just how the land can be best managed. No firm decisions have been taken at this time but the Council contemplates the following.

That the land be managed by the Council and that the Council should look to members of the community to assist in that process. Schemes like this have already worked well in the village where groups such as the Highways Group and the Communications Group have worked alongside the Council to seek to bring added benefit to the local community.

The Council will undertake a comprehensive survey of the assets and land fixtures – seats, walls, posts, memorial plaques and so on with a view to ensuring that it has a comprehensive and complete list of its assets and that they are shown in the Register of Assets. Insurance of these assets must be arranged. There will be need for a Health and Safety Audit of the Tyning land to ensure that the Council acts responsibly and appropriately.

The Tyning is a prized asset. It is there for use by local people for play and recreation. It may also become a valuable and integral centre for learning and education on the environment. Biodiversity projects particularly for the young may well stimulate applications for Lottery and other funding.

The Neighbourhood Plan and the Tyning

Proposals coming forward from the community under the Neighbourhood Plan process include the wish to improve access to the whole of the Tyning, to provide a safe footpath inside the hedge along Freshford Lane (Tyning side), to widen the highway along Freshford Lane to provide off road parking for the school bus and private vehicles. These expectations need to be managed and careful assessment made as to their prospects of implementation particularly in view of the restrictions in place on the land. If there is to be any change it will  be vital to demonstrate that the change is to seek to improve the amenity of the Tyning and that any change has the widespread support of the community.

The maintenance of the Tyning

The Council will seek to manage the Tyning in a manner that is both consistent with its status as village green and is in accordance with the law. The Council will work within the legislation to improve the amenity of the land. The Council has experience of managing and maintaining the ‘blue’ Tyning land over many years and will draw on that experience to best manage the red land. In the event of purchase some routine maintenance will be needed from the outset – grass cutting, hedge cutting etc. The Council will NOT undertake any substantive changes without further full community involvement.
There is a considerable body of expert advice and opinion upon which to draw and upon which to help shape decisions. Advice, surveys, reports, maps, will be of considerable help and guidance. As well as drawing upon help from within the community including local farmers, Natural England, The Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, the Open Spaces Society, the Cotswold Board, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, bath and North East Somerset Council – all have their part to play in helping us protect and enhance the Tyning jewel in the crown. 

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