Therfield Heath inquiry: Questions continue about legality of land swap planning application

The inquiry into the degregistration of a portion of heathland near Briary Lane and Sun Hill began o

The inquiry into the degregistration of a portion of heathland near Briary Lane and Sun Hill began on Tuesday at the Coombes Community Centre in Royston. Picture: David Hatton - Credit: Archant

The question as to whether the application to degregister Royston heathland and swap it with land of a similar size near Therfield was made legally continues to blight the heath inquiry.

Therfield Heath

Therfield Heath - Credit: Archant

At the start of proceedings on Tuesday last week, objector Clive Hall suggested that the planning application “wasn’t legal” as the applicant, The Therfield Regulation, didn’t own the land.

Application supporters’ advocate Deborah Sharples had previously told the inquiry, led by inspector Mark Yates, that the landowners are the trustees of The Therfield Regulation Trust charity, but they are the same people as the Conservators who used to call themselves The Therfield Regulation.”

When clerk David Smith was cross-examined by objector Clive Hall on Monday, he was asked how many separate roles he fulfilled.

He said he was clerk to the Conservators, who wear three hats and that he “supports them in all of their three hats – Conservators, managing trustees and property holding trustees of The Therfield Regulation Trust.

Mr Hall said that as part of proper legal proceedings, the application by the Therfield Regulation for deregistration and exchange must be signed by the chairman and the clerk.

Mr Smith looked at the evidence, and confirmed it was only signed by chairman John King on behalf of the Therfield Regulation.

Most Read

Mr Hall also put it to the clerk that on The Charity Commission For England and Wales’ website, The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens was a working name of The Therfield Regulation Trust, making them not two entities, but one.

Mr Smith said: “The relationship between Conservators and the Therfield Regulation Trust has satisfied our previous solicitors, who, when I was first appointed had to check the minutes of every meeting.

“Unfortunately he had to take early retirement and the Conservators decided to go to a new firm of solicitiors with expertise. We chose them because of strength of charity law – they investigate position of clients and they are satisified the way we operate is correct. The Charity Commission has no questions about it either.”

About the line of questioning, advocate Mrs Sharples said: “It is predicated on the assumption that Mr Hall is aware of a legal position, and we don’t accept that position is accurate.”

The inquiry at the Coombes Community Centre in Royston’s Burns Road is expected to continue until Thursday.