'Our land has been grabbed!': Rutland family demand answers from council

Roofer Alistair Rhys-Williams, from Manton, holds the title deed to the patch, bought as a home for his horse, that he purchased with his first earnings in 1984 from Leicestershire County Council.

His document shows it was signed by the county solicitor at the time.

But so far this has not been enough to satisfy officialdom and he finds himself facing more demands for proof and fearing the problem might be booted into the long grass indefinitely.

++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on maisha.frost@express.co.uk ++

“It’s so unjust that despite the deeds I, or anyone, can be pushed aside like this. At this rate, it will cost more to defend the field than it is worth. I’ve spent £1,600 on legal fees already, been fobbed off and don’t know where to turn,” he claimed.

Land registration only became compulsory from 1991.

Alistair’s property remained unregistered, which is not illegal although highly advisable to avoid.

Rooted in the land of his home county, Alistair’s craft construction work is with heritage materials such as natural slates local to the East Midlands region.

It was in May during one of his regular visits to the field, located off a private path, that he was greeted with the astonishing sight of it covered in piles of hardcore.

The patch is close to a railway bridge where Network Rail, through its sub-contractor, was carrying out repairs. It had checked with HM Land Registry to get a licence for storage. Records showed that Rutland County Council had registered the land in 2008 and it approved Network Rail’s request.

After Alistair explained the situation to Network Rail, which has restored the land, it has offered him reimbursement if he is proved to be the owner. The council confirmed it did not receive any fee from the licensing.

Alistair came to Crusader after he was concerned about the lack of progress with his complaint so we took up his cause to get a solution and answers. Not least of these was what proof was used to get the land registered in 2008. 

“The council is now conducting a thorough investigation, making relevant inquiries with Land Registry. The council moved swiftly and has been in regular contact,” Rutland CC said last week, although stretched because of Covid pressures, it was unable to give a timescale. 

It has now offered to pay for a survey, it says, that must be done. 

“Our solicitor chased the council on three occasions, we do not consider contact was regular. We hope though it will be now,” responded Alistair and keen for others to avoid his experience, he urged: “If you have legacy land get it registered, nothing is safe until then.”

Keep original deeds safe and don’t let land lie unregistered 

Some 13 percent of land in England and Wales remains unregistered.

It is almost exclusively property owned by central and local government, and agricultural land handed down over generations.

Unregistered land does remain vulnerable, however, problems such as the one Alistair is grappling with are rare.

When his wife Claire first called HM Land Registry in Leicester for help, she claims she was told they needed to send in the original deeds by post. Concerned that this was Alistair’s only proof, the couple decided not to do that. Alistair has now raised an inquiry which should enable him to send copies, kickstarting the investigation at last.

You can find a property’s ownership here – each Title Register costs £3 to download.

Harry Byrne

Harry Byrne

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