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Dispute sparked over ownership of coastal salt marsh

PUBLISHED: 10:11 12 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 12 August 2019

A view over Brancaster, looking towards Scolt Head Island and the golf club. Picture: Ian Burt

A view over Brancaster, looking towards Scolt Head Island and the golf club. Picture: Ian Burt

A group set up to preserve age-old rights over commoners' land has launched a bit to take back control of a stretch of salt marsh it says it being encroached upon.

The Scolt Head and District Common Rightholders Association says the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club and the National Trust have encroached upon the commoners rights by building on and using parts of Brancaster Marsh Common.

The association says it should share an income from a car park, kiosk and beach huts on the common, and the golf club should also pay it compensation for using the land. The common rightholders would then use this money to protect the common and common rights. The common rightholders would then use this money to protect the common and common rights.

But both the golf club and the National Trust said they were at odds with the association's stance.

Rod Cooke, from the association, said: "There are almost 300 common right holders, and we registered the land back in the 1960s. If you could prove that your family had used the land for fishing or other purposes over the years then your claim was accepted.

The marshland at Brancaster. Picture: Simon BamberThe marshland at Brancaster. Picture: Simon Bamber

"We don't wish the golf club to stop playing golf or stop the car park or beach huts from being used, but we do need recognition that the right holders are the legal occupants of the land by law.

"Last year there was £130,000 taken from the car park and common right holders didn't get a penny to spend on preservation of the common and protection of common rights."

Mr Cooke said the right holders' goals' included "protecting and, with the land owners, managing the area of benefit in its present unspoilt state," and to be mindful of the wider conservation issues that may impact the common.

Tim Stephens, golf club secretary, said the club was aware of the view of "a few members" of the association, and "not agree with the position they have taken".

Mr Stephens said the club always sought to act lawfully, and added: "The club values its good relationship with Brancaster village and Brancaster Parish Council, and is keen to remain on good terms with all those with an interest in the land at Brancaster."

Victoria Egan, general manager for the National Trust in north Norfolk said their ownership of part of the land had been registered with the Land Registry.

She said: "Any party who believes there is a valid claim of ownership by somebody else must in the first instance apply to challenge the register.

"We have offered to meet with the legal representatives of the association and discuss their concerns about ownership, but to date this offer has not been taken up."

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