Thursday, July 25, 2013

Church Commissioners, Land Registry, Mineral Rights, Inclosures Act - and Vogons

The Land Registry has written to us, stating that the Church Commissioners are asserting their right to the mines and minerals under some of our land.

This is our second letter to them:


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lisa Sunley
Objections Officer
Land Registry
Durham Office
Southfield House
Southfield Way
Durham DH1 5TR

Dear Lisa Sunley

Title number ST252441
Thank you for your letter dated 24 July.

First, you say that the time periods for response are given to enable registration applications to be “dealt with and completed within a reasonable time”. Given that 218 (two hundred and eighteen) years have elapsed between the Church Commissioners having allegedly given themselves the “right” to the minerals under the soil of which we are now fortunate to be the stewards, 15 (fifteen) days not seem to be a just and proportionate length of time, and would suggest that 15 years would be a more reasonable length of time.

Regarding a legible transcript, we were amused by your suggestion that we should visit Durham or London (as you see, we live in Somerset) to view a transcript of the original document, as it reminds us of the statements emanating from the Vogons in Douglas Adams well-known novel “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. You must hold, or know of someone who holds, an electronic transcript of the transcript, and we are not being unreasonable in asking you to forward the relevant part to us on paper or as an email attachment.

Our grounds for objection are twofold. In the first place, you say in your letter that the Act of Parliament that initiated the Enclosures “authorised the commissioners to divide up the commons and allot them to the people who were entitled to them”. However, at the time of the Enclosures, the people who were entitled to the common land were the common people who grazed the land for their subsistence. As you know, the Enclosures were nothing but a land grab on the part of the elites of the time against land that was hitherto in common use.

The procedures of the Inclosures Act were widely abused.  Even if it is assumed that a Parliamentary Committee, largely composed of landed proprietors, was always disinterested on questions affecting land, little trouble seems to have been taken to elicit the opinions of small claimants. Schemes of enclosure rarely began with a public meeting of the parish. The principal owners generally met in secret, arranged the points in which their own interests conflicted, selected the solicitor and surveyor, nominated the Commissioners, settled the terms of the petition. Even the next step--that of obtaining signatures--might be taken privately.” retrieved 25.7.2013

While it is clearly too late to undo all the wrongs inflicted on the common people by the original Inclosures Act, accepting a  given historic injustice should not lead us to accept unquestioningly a modern application of the same injustice.

The mineral wealth of a nation rightly and justly belongs to the nation as a whole. This is a simple geographic fact in popular usage, as when it is said that “South Africa has mineral wealth” or “the UK has the best wind resource in Europe”. The possession of wealth of a state is also expressed in practice in allocating a national dividend arising from wealth derived from minerals, as instanced in the distribution of a Basic or Citizens’ Income to citizens of Namibia and Alaska as a result of a windfall.

Now clearly, mineral wealth needs to be mined and refined in order to become a form of income, and here land stewardship comes into play.  This stewardship must be carried out ethically, violating neither people nor the environment.

This brings us to the central issue. In that the Church Commissioners are asserting their rights for the first time in more than two centuries at a time when the extraction of shale gas and other forms of extreme fossil fuel exploitation in the UK is building up, it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that the two events are related.

Now it may be that the Church Commissioners are putting forward their claim in order to prevent the exploitation of shale gas and other forms of extreme energy because their Christian ethic would see this as a despoliation of God’s creation, both locally in water pollution, air pollution by methane, increased rural traffic movements et cetera. In this case, they should make their intentions clear, and we can evaluate their claim in that light.

If on the other hand the Church Commissioners are putting forward this claim in order to profit from the exploitation of shale gas and other forms of extreme energy in contradiction of the Christian ethic they should make again make their intentions clear, and we can evaluate their claim in that light.

You will no doubt say that this is a matter for the Commissioners, not for the Land Registry. In that case, I would be grateful if you would forward it to the relevant department of the Commissioners.

These are the provisional and brief grounds of our objection. We reserve the right to make other objections as they may become apparent to us.

Yours sincerely

Richard Lawson        Nicola Lawson

1 comment:

Debbie said...

`What a fabulous, factual letter! I am in the same position, having received The Land Registry letter here in south somerset. For some reason the Church has showed great interest in my goat field, whilst neither of my neighbours have had such correspondence. I have appealed and the Church have objected. I would love some advice how to proceed. Best of wishes, Debbie Henry