Anyone who can prove they have had access to a property over Rusthall Common for at least 20 years does not have to take out a licence.
Although a letter sent on behalf of Targetfollow to a resident of Sunnyside Road only mentions ‘formal legal rights’ to cross the land, a spokesman admitted this includes prescriptive rights, which become legally ‘established or accepted by long usage or the passage of time’.
When questioned by the Times, company spokesman Stuart Gray said: “If people already have access rights, they don’t need new ones.
“Whether that’s access from a formal licence or prescriptive rights, they then won’t need anything new from us.”
Asked why prescriptive rights were not specifically mentioned in the letter seen by the Times, Mr Gray said: “Prescriptive rights are still formal rights.
“People have come back to us and demonstrated that a previous owner of the property has used the access for 20 years or more and we’ve accepted that.
“If people can prove that, they won’t have to pay.” A Tunbridge Wells solicitor, who asked not to be named, thought the wording of the letter could be misconstrued.
She said: “Prescriptive rights are very important. “People need to make sure they don’t give them up by sending money and entering into a licence agreement.
“That’s where the confusion lies. The majority of people will have prescriptive rights. It’s whether they realise that or not.
“People should take individual legal advice.” Mr Gray said ‘a large number of households and businesses’ already had similar licences in place, ‘a lot of them since before Targetfollow owned the commons’, and that the company had initiated the most recent scheme in response to requests.
He added: “We were contacted by a number of parties asking us to formalise their access rights. Having received the requests, we extended the opportunity to the residents of these roads.
“In particular, when people come to sell their houses, purchasers want to see appropriate access rights so this is an opportunity for those without formal rights, to put them in place to make their properties more saleable.
“We’ll be extending the opportunity to anyone who has access across the commons, it will be rolled out over a period of time.”
Mr Gray said the amount charged for licences was ‘in line with’ existing arrangements and those in place for similar commons elsewhere in the country.
A letter sent by Targetfollow’s lawyers to a resident of Sunnyside Road:
“We understand that you, the members of your household and your visitors cross over our client’s property to access your property, by foot, vehicles or both. Likewise, we understand that services (gas electric, water etc) may be being run from your property underneath our client’s property.
“If you believe that you already benefit from formal legal rights in respect of access and services over our client’s property, please provide evidence of the same by providing a copy of the relevant deed or licence. Otherwise, we are instructed to regularise the position by putting a formal licence in place. This would roll from year to year, subject to payment of an annual licence fee.
“Please confirm how you wish to proceed by ticking either Box A or Box B over the page… and returning it to ourselves… as soon as possible and in any event by 10 November.”