Plans are being drawn up for a ‘joint information meeting’ to help residents of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells Commons in their fight against landowners Targetfollow. Some of the residents are elderly and considered ‘vulnerable’.
The move comes as the Norwich-based company intensified its letter campaign aimed at forcing scores of residents to pay up to £350 a year, plus a £300 sign-up fee, for the right to walk across its land to reach their homes. The ‘land tax’ would also allow for utility services running underground to the properties.
The Times understands there is growing concern among members of the Rusthall Parish Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for the wellbeing of those in receipt of these letters. The parish council is looking to arrange the meeting.
Cllr Joy Podbury, who represents Rusthall on the borough council, said: “What is very sad is some of these people are extremely elderly, with many in their late 80’s and 90’s.
“It is very worrying for them and we are getting lots of people coming to us over the issue.”
Jill Streatfeild has power of attorney over her 95-year-old aunt which means she is dealing with the Targetfollow letter on her behalf.
“My aunt was extremely frightened by the letter, and told me it had made her feel ill and even more vulnerable than she already is.
“Unfortunately, she has no other relatives and I live in Suffolk, some 120 miles away.
“I am reluctant at this stage to contact solicitors as this would be expensive and my aunt lives on her state pension and small savings.”
Currently the advice being given to recipients of the letter by Rusthall Village Association is ‘not to respond or enter into any licence agreement’.
The worry is the residents who do sign up to the ‘formal rights’ of access which Targetfollow are claiming in the letter to be a necessity, will lose any ‘prescriptive rights’ they may have previously been entitled to.
The Land Registry describes ‘prescriptive rights’ as being acquired ‘through long use or enjoyment’. They are gained through three avenues: Common law, by lost modern grant, or under the Prescription Act 1832.
By signing up to any formal rights, residents will be contractually bound to pay the £350 per year.
Targetfollow, which owns the commons under its title Manor of Rusthall, argues the company has received ‘various enquiries’ from neighbouring landowners seeking licences for access rights and service media.
They claim these are often sought by those wishing to sell their properties and as part of ‘good estate management’ the company seeks to formalise access rights ‘in a fair and consistent way’.