Runnymede Eco-Village in Epic Court Battle – Sept 2015

Mark Brown mark at
Fri Sep 11 16:12:54 BST 2015

Runnymede Eco-Village in Epic Court Battle – Sept 2015

Runnymede Eco-Village – a stone’s throw from the place where the Magna Carta was
signed in 1215 – may be creating in its legal defence against eviction in the
High Court a historic legal precedent which, in invoking within the legal
challenge to fight eviction the “Charter of the Forest”, an accompanying
document to the Magna Carta 800 years ago, could establish legal precedent to
the recognition of a new-use class of sustainable land management within
planning law and establish “rights of use” even if the existing land title would
be confirmed. The ‘land use right’ could be legally upheld in this court-case
between the developer and the squatters, who include amongst their number women
and children and young families.

Established in 2012, Runnymede has held its ground, stopping the development of
the site, which is of historical importance, with links to the Magna Carta –
Britain’s only written constitution. In Runnymede’s own words: “Runnymede
Eco-Village was founded in 2012 by a group of land activists known as the
Diggers. They modelled themselves after Gerald Winstanley and the 1649 Diggers
who had attempted to settle open, free, self-sustaining communities on the
common lands of Britain during the English Civil War […]After squatting and
being moved on from several pieces of land (more detail below), the group came
upon and settled the disused former Brunel University campus, creating Runnymede
Eco-Village. […] Despite eviction threats and an on going legal process to
remove the community from the land, the village has remained and will soon mark
its third year anniversary on the 11th of June, 2015.”

Now, having celebrated its Third Year with a summer festival, Runnymede is in
court, making a constitutional case for why they should remain in occupation.
Like all possession cases, the law is rigged in favour of the title holders (in
this case an offshore developer), acting in the interests of that sacred cow,
private property. However, the legal team for Runnymede are putting together a
bold case, that references a whole gamut of law (common, European and
Constitutional), that goes to the heart of ancient land rights during this
period of modern enclosure. 

On their website, you can find the following regarding their case:

* Press Release – “Historic Appeal Case Could Set Precedent for Right to
Low-Impact Living”
* Skeleton Legal Argument (6 pages) – Scribd
* Fuller Legal Argument with Case Law and Precedents



TWITTER: @freetheland

This write-up adapted from article courtesy of SQUASH campaign – opposing
anti-squatting legislation. Ref:

More on the Diggers of Runnymede:
The weekend after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, on June 9th 2012, a group of
people met at Syon Lane allotments and walked along the Grand Union Canal out of
London to Windsor, travelling overnight on route to Windsor Great Park having
already identified disused land on crown estate land. [See original report here: ]. The intention was to grow food,
live sustainably and restore and build structures in a responsible way, rather
like a re-intepretation of the origin of the word Jubilee – returning land to
it’s orginal inhabitants. Pre-emptive injunctions were served on them before
they had even set off. They had planned to set up an ecovillage camp on what had
been identified as a disused farm (confirmed by a local in a days prior to the
occupation), but when they settled on the site, the crown estate legal team
produced a “farmer” who said it was a hay meadow which was soon to be cropped
for sileage (a comment made was that there will be a lot of nettles in that
sileage for sure)!

After a game of cat and mouse with Thames Valley Police who followed the
intrepid diggers where-ever they walked (they attempted to settle on another
site close by, but police were already waiting for them there and stopped them),
the group spent the night on a site near Runnymede.

By Monday 11th, the group found a spot of woodland within Coopers Hill Woods
adjacent to National Trust land at Runnymede where they settled down. The site

is owned by Royal Holloway University. The woodland site is earmarked for
housing owned by an overseas property company Orchid who have plans to build a
large housing development on the site. The occupation of the site has ensured
the development plans for the site have been delayed – continued action which
has overwhelming support from local people opposed to the proposed development
which would be highly controversial being as the site is green-belt land.

But as well as effectively ‘digging in’ to resist this proposed development to
protect an area of semi-natural woodland from monstrous development in
green-belt land by continuing to contest eviction proceedings by the
developer/site owner which are now being challenged in the High Court, these
modern-day diggers are also asserting a right-to-livelihood, with mothers and
their small children amongst the permanent residents there.

In the Magna Carta Lecture which took place in 2012 at Royal Holloway
University, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, defined law as ”as
all those protocols that stop society being run exclusively in the interests of
whatever group happens to be dominant at any moment, and that thus guarantee
fairness and redress independently of status or power.” In the Runnymede Diggers
own words (written in 2012): “Here in Runnymede, where the notion of modern law,
justice and equality are said to have sprung from, you could be forgiven for
thinking that the law may reflect Rowan William’s definition. And yet the
reverse appears to be true. Instead we find a minority of land owning elites
hold almost total power of over access to the thing whose life we all depend on:
the land. Those of us here at Runnymede Eco-Village have become quite used to
breaking the laws as a by-product of simply trying to live on disused land in a
low impact and harmless way. We will carry on doing what we think is just as the
primary guide over and above these laws.”

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