THE development of Knights Wood is at risk of being bogged down in legal red tape due to a dispute over land ownership and grazing rights.
Situated on the edge of the North Farm retail park, the Dandara development will see hundreds of houses built across 205 acres of former farm land.
But the scheme, which when completed will see around 550 houses built on the land, 163 of which will be classed as affordable, is at risk of stalling as half an acre owned by the company has been used to rear horses for the past 30 years.
Breeder Frank Rossiter claims he was sent a notice last week giving him until today (June 7) to move his six horses, including a month old foul, from the land he has kept horses on for three decades.
Despite Dandara stating they have been in discussion with Mr Rossiter for ‘some time’ the 46-year -old breeder, has reacted with shock over the short window of time he has been given to find his horses a new home.
“Even if I was given a month I couldn’t find another place,” he said.
Mr Rossiter believes he is entitled to ‘grazing rights’ due to the length of time his horses have occupied the field.
He claims the rights stem not only from the length of time, but because the previous landowner had allowed him to occupy the parcel of land for free.
“If I had paid him then when the land was bought by the developer they could have kicked me off as I would have been a tenant,” he explains.
Although he says he ‘doesn’t blame’ the developer’ for wanting to use the land and not knowing about his situation, In Mr Rossiter’s opinion, his rights entitle him to either be allowed to remain or compensation in kind.
“I have been breeding horses all my life and want to leave them to my children like my father did for me. All I am asking for is to remain on the land or for them to find another small piece for me elsewhere.”
The issue of grazing rights is highly complex and subject to many factors, but Mr Rossiter believes he has legal grounds for his position.
However, Dandara dispute his position. A Spokesman said: “We have been in discussion with Mr Rossiter for some time regarding this on-going issue. We have sought advice from various agencies and have of course taken legal advice.
“We commenced construction at Knights Wood in 2014 and in the interests of working positively have allowed Mr Rossiter to use our land during that time. To date we have never received any evidence in relation to Mr Rossiter’s claims.
“It is unfortunate that this situation has now arisen, however, Knights Wood is a development site and we are continuing to progress with construction with the safety of all as a primary concern. Mr Rossiter has always been fully aware of this situation.”