[diggers350] Britain's last Court Leet in Portland, Dorset?

David Bangs dave.bangs at virgin.net
Fri Aug 21 22:06:49 BST 2009

Dear James,

I've no objections to the state (yes, the bourgeois state) owning all that 
ground. I object, though, to their managing it on commercial lines, just 
like any other private landowner, and not managing it for the broad 
community interest - ie outside of market constraints.

Here in Sussex the Crown Estate used to own the 'Poynings Estate', which 
included somewhat over 2000 acres, with much gorgeous Downland around the 
Devil's Dyke near Brighton, and a whole series of let farms, part in the Low 
Weald and part on the Downs themselves. They sold this landholding in 1979, 
at a time when I was living away from Brighton.

Looking back, I deeply regret the opportunity that was then lost to claw 
back this holding for genuine social purposes and to make it a core public 
property within the new South Downs National Park. As it was, the estate was 
largely bought by its sitting tenant farmers - and one golf course. These 
ex-tenant farmers' management has since been entirely of a type with any 
other biggish commercial private  farmers - big commercial pheasant 
shooting, neglect and erosion of important wildlife habitats, hostility to 
public access, stripping out of land-based labour, selling off of important 
vernacular farm building assemblages etc.

In contrast, in 1994-5 we fought a sharp campaign against the attempt of 
Brighton Council - the local state - to sell of its 13,000 acre Downland 
farmed estate. We won. The fight goes on to convert this estate to genuine 
social purposes and to stop its primary use being to provide a second-rate 
source of rental income to the cash-strapped Council. We have had our 
victories there, though, and I dread to think what that landscape would have 
become if we had lost and the estate had been privatised, chiefly to its 
tenants in occupation. The story of what happened to one neighbouring 
privatised council farm stands as a grim testimony to that...

Various arms of the bourgeois state also own huge public estates in defence 
land, health service and education service land, and so on. The local state, 
mostly in the form of local councils, have huge public landholdings which 
are not in any way optimally used.

I deeply object to the very existence of the bourgeois state's army, just as 
I do to the Crown, but without the public holding of the defence lands the 
glories of Salisbury Plain would have long been lost to commercial 
agriculture. No chance for the return of the Great Bustard then !!

Politics is always contradictory. We fight for the existence of the National 
Health service, yet we hate the undemocratic - and now increasingly 
commercial - way in which it is run. We fight for the state owned education 
system, yet we hate the institutions of oppression which our schools are in 
practice. We fight for council housing, yet we hate the state's neglect and 
ripping off of council tenants.

And...we fight against the privatisation of any public lands, whether they 
be Crown Estate, playing fields, hospitals, council homes, or County Council 
smallholdings. At least in public ownership they have the potential to be 
used for the real public good !!

Dave Bangs, countryside activist and ex-convenor Brighton and Hove Defend 
Council Housing

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "james armstrong" <james36armstrong at hotmail.com>
To: <diggers350 at yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2009 10:05 PM
Subject: [diggers350] Britain's last Court Leet in Portland, Dorset?

The Crown Estate (extract from their endorsement of the illustrated calendar 
of the Chesil Beach and Fleet Nature Reserve, 2000)

"The Crown estate has a long association with The Island and Royal Manor of 
Portland which has belonged to the Crown since Saxon times. Our joint 
funding of the visitor centre at Chesil Beach was an example of our 
commitment to the area.....

Around 250 hectares of land in Portland is managed by the Crown Estate. Of 
this, 160 hectares is common land which is administered by one of the last 
fully functional Courts Leet in Britain. In addition to this and the 
foreshore, the Crown Estate owns a number of commercial operations on 
Portland including a farm, petrol station, car parks, cafes and fishing and 
leisure huts. One of the major commercial interests is the quarrying of the 
valued Portland Stone.

The Crown Estate is a landed estate including over 120,000 hectares (300,000 
acres) of agricultural land in England, Scotland and Wales, substantial 
blocks of urban property and almost half the foreshore, together with the 
sea bed out to the twelve mile territorial limit.   Its origins  date back 
to the reign of Edward the Confessor. The Crown Estate is part of the 
hereditary possessions of the Sovereign "in the right of the Crown", managed 
under the provision of the Crown Estate Act of 1961.  The net surplus is 
paid to the Exchequer and amounted to £125.8 million for the year 31st March 

BBC Southampton 'Southern Eye' film about planning corruption in and around 


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