Hearing over site of coastal golf clubhouse labelled ‘a stitch up’

The Royal West Norfolk Golf Club clubhouse at Brancaster. The club wants to deregister the land the

The Royal West Norfolk Golf Club clubhouse at Brancaster. The club wants to deregister the land the clubhouse sits on. Picture: Gary Pearson - Credit: citizenside.com

A member of a common right holders’ group fighting to keep a stretch of beach front land in public hands has described a Planning Inspectorate’s hearing over the dispute as a “stitch up”.

Inspector Martin Elliot led the hearing over the land in Brancaster at North Creake Village Hall on Tuesday (February 18).

The Scolt Head and District Common Rightholders Association claims an age-old right over a swathe of coastal salt marsh in Brancaster.

The association wanted to prevent the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club from de-registering part of the land, where their club house has sat for decades.

Rod Cooke, from the association, said he was disappointed with how the hearing went.

Mr Cooke said: "A number of common right holders in the audience were fuming. It felt like a stitch up.

"The inspector had protocol to follow which removed any argument that we might have made.

"The golf club said that if we questioned anything that they wanted to do then they would pursue costs against us.

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"So we had to remove ourselves as objectors and ask questions as members of the public. But if the questions went against protocol then they were not allowed."

But Tim Stephens, golf club secretary, said this was "an exaggeration".

Mr Stephens said: "We put forward an application to de-regiser the land.

"The meeting took place to test the validity of the application and the inspector was comfortable with the information that he got."

Mr Cooke said they would now have to await the inspectorate's decision.

He said: "We put forward our case on the basis of information that we had got from Defra.

"Anyone can come along and de-register common land as long as the buildings were there before 1965. It really doesn't matter if they were there lawfully or not."

The association includes around 300 common right holders and it registered the land in the 1960s.

The association says the golf club, as well as the National Trust, have encroached upon the commoners' rights by building on and using parts of Brancaster Marsh Common.