Council accused of wasting cash on legal claim

NORTHIAM residents have accused the parish council of wasting thousands of pounds of their money in a drawn out legal battle with local farmers over bollards.

The council installed bollards at the approach road of the former Six Bells pub, effectively blocking access to Hayes Farm and four farm cottages.

They claimed it was not a road but part of the village green. But farmers Roger and Jenny Farrant obtained legal proof that it was an ancient highway and a court ordered the council to remove the bollards, which they did in January.

Jenny Farrant said: “A judge ruled that the council had acted unlawfully and awarded us full costs. Our costs are £25,000 and the council’s £21,000 and for what?”

Residents claim that when they tried to raise the issue at a council meeting they were prevented from speaking and told there was no time to discuss it.

Now they are calling for a public inquiry into the council’s behaviour.

Jenny Farrant said: “It is very easy to spend someone else’s money. It is on public record that we appealed on several occasions not to be forced into taking this matter to court,even offering to settle out of court, all to no avail.

“Northiam Parish Council were determined, for some obscure reason, to push this claim to the bitter end.

“We can only regret that the village has been left with this huge bill and nothing accomplished.”

Resident Marion Mills said: “The council has overstepped the mark. At the end of the day they have done something that was not legal. Why don’t they admit they were wrong and move on?”

Jackie Hart said: “They have spent money like water and it is not their money to spend.

“We feel they are doing things behind closed doors.

“This is like the whole parish precept being spent in one lump sum. Surely they should have asked permission.

“Why have they spent public money on something that is not benefitting the parish?”

Nick Reed said: “I am upset that a parish council can do this. The chairman refused point-blank to discuss it.

“We need the facts and figures out in the open.”

The issue is almost certain to be raised again at the annual parish meeting on April 12.

Parish Clerk Sue Keighley said: “ Northiam Parish Council has been involved in a legal dispute regarding the use of a public right of way and the erection of bollards to prevent unauthorised vehicular use for a number of years. The Council’s solicitors have advised that it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter further until the costs resulting from the Land Registry adjudication judgement have been agreed”.