[Diggers350] TLIO camp finds opposition mysteriously vanishing to The National Trust’s privatisation of North Norfolk commons

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Feb 10 01:50:20 GMT 2022

TLIO camp finds opposition mysteriously vanishing 
to The National Trust’s privatisation of North Norfolk commons

February 2022 - 
<https://tlio.org.uk/author/tony/>Tony Gosling - 
a comment
(see below for press articles about the camp and 
Natural England’s attempts to exclude the public from these commons)

By Tony Gosling: 10Feb22 BRISTOL: TLIO camp finds 
opposition mysteriously vanishing to The National 
Trust’s privatisation of North Norfolk commons

Over August bank holiday 2021 The Land Is Ours 
campaign ventured East to camp out on disputed 
common land along the North Norfolk coast. It was 
the campaign’s first tentative steps back into 
the world of direct action since supporting Tony 
Wrench’s Pembrokeshire roundhouse planning bid in Easter 2004.


The vast salt marsh commons in question are 
supposed to be owned by Brancaster parish council 
yet the camp site is clearly managed by the Royal 
West Norfolk Golf Club (RWNGC) who are there in 
force collecting car park fees. Curious then that 
it should be another interested ‘charity’ 
entirely, the National Trust, whose North Norfolk 
and Broads manager Victoria Egan phoned TLIO’s 
Tony Gosling up a few days beforehand, politely 
requesting he cancel the excursion.

The vast commons around Brancaster and Scolt 
Island were awarded to the coastal parishes in 
the 1700s but this ‘waste’  has now become some 
of the most potentially valuable retirement and 
investment land in East Anglia. A report in the 
Eastern Daily Press while the camp was taking 
place put the average Branaster house price as £800k.
Fourth and fifth homes, according the commoners 
who steward these 3,500 or so mostly salt-marsh 
acres, the Scolt Head and District Common 
Rightholders Association. SHDCRA, pronounced 
Shackra’s, Their 400 or so commoners don’t just 
use the land, they are an invaluable reservoir of 
local history and culture and have watched for 
four decades since the Thatcher era, with ever 
more sceptical eyes, as the filthy lucre has 
rolled up along the unspoilt North Norfolk coast.

But actual common rights exercised, as elsewhere, 
have been diminishing. Over the decades since the 
second world war livestock grazing,  reed 
cutting, even shooting has dwindled and, armed 
with some of the best-paid lawyers in East Anglia 
three main institutions have been acquiring 
slices, and chunks of these unique commons.

Private feudal big guns are to be found at the 
Holkham Hall estate managers office a few miles 
East between Blakeny Point and Fakenham backed by 
the 25,000-acre the Earl of Leicester’s Estate. 
But despite the Earl’s increasing 
commercialisation of the area it is so-called 
charitable organisations, the parish councils and 
the National Trust that have become the haunts 
for these Johnny-come lately land-grabbers.


Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car 
Park, over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Tony Gosling 
(right) with other protest group at the Car Park 
with Brancaster Golf Club in the Background, they 
are joined by Stephen Bocking (2nd left) 
Brancaster Parish Council member and Scolt Head 
and District Common Rightholder

So was the three nights out by the beach to be an 
‘occupation’ of Golf Club land? Of National Trust 
land? Or simply a camp-out on the parish commons? 
Some say the parish own the land, others the golf 
club and we even heard it was National Trust land 
leased to the golf club in a secret deal.

As so many times in the past the only way to 
uncover evidence would be to spend a few weeks 
there and discover the supposed owner through 
court papers. Countless requests from SHADCRA to 
the private and charitable claimants have failed 
to produce the required evidence and, lately, the 
private parties are even refusing to reply to 
commoners’ letters and phone calls.
The most surprising discovery though relates to 
the National Trust who arrived in the early 20th 
Century when they were donated a slice of land 
near Scolt Island. Despite being a ‘charity’ the 
NT appear to be increasingly mesmerised by the 
dizzying financial value of properties with which 
‘for the education and betterment of the public’ 
they are entrusted. The NT’s North Norfolk boss 
Victoria Egan  is working with and for private 
locals, lodging claims at the land registry for 
apparently ‘vacant’ common land around their existing holdings.

Natural England have been working closely with 
the National Trust too on coastal path proposals, 
unveiled in 2018, but under cover of ‘rewilding’ 
they aim to exclude walkers from thousands of 
aces of salt-marsh along the footpath. Local 
dog-walker Philip Platten, told The Times’ 
environment correspondent Jonathan Leake, ‘I will 
be visiting the marshes whenever I want, and I 
challenge anyone to stop me taking my 
grandchildren too.’ [see Rebecca Murphy’s May 2018 EDP article below]

NT claims have only been rebuffed by diligent 
SHDCRA members of the parish councils lodging 
counter-claims at the land registry along with 
copies of their eighteenth century enclosure 
awards. So, unfettered by the mere law of the 
land these parish councils are gradually being 
taken over by well-heeled incomers more inclined 
to turn a blind eye to the NT claims and view 
them as an ‘opportunity for development’.

But, bulldozer-in-hand, Brancaster’s in-yer-face 
land-grabbers, sub-letting from the grey-zone 
‘twixt parish council and National Trust, have to 
be the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club who, since 
the 1990s, have taken the opportunity to carve 
out their own parking facilities into a large 
public car park which used to be free but as they 
have extended it they have also brought in a 
£4-£8 charge for anyone wanting a few hours or a 
day on one of the loveliest sandy beaches in the country.

With ten or so TLIO common rights supporters 
spending the long weekend under canvas on 
Brancaster Beach car park a whole series of 
passing locals settled into comfy chairs to tell 
tales of well-connected outsiders turning up as 
parish councillors, and suddenly chairing 
parishes too. Tales of ‘control freaks’ at the 
RWN golf club causing a exodus of members  to the 
‘less anal’ nearby Hunstanton club, and wondering 
if the tens of thousands in car park profits 
wouldn’t give a desperately needed facelift for 
the beach road and parish rather than vanishing into golf club coffers.
Legally the golf club, and possibly the Trust 
too, should be paying annual compensation for the 
common land they’ve built on which should be 
putting the commoners well into the black.
So cash-strapped SHDCRA soldier on, asking for 
meetings with Trusts, Clubs and Estates who can’t 
see the point of dealing with anything without 
legal and financial weight behind it. The doors 
have been slammed in their face and even 
individuals who turn up at SHDCRA managing to 
turn members against the executive of their own association.
According to one frequent visitor to the Norfolk 
coast, Mike, the parking fines stuffed under 
windscreen wipers by the golf course aren’t worth 
the paper they are photocopied on, and the 
wording is that used by the National Trust 
elsewhere along the coast. For all the years he’s 
been parking there for free, they’ve never been enforced.
Could it be, despite Brancaster Beach car park 
attendants’ uniforms, like the notorious Bristol 
Zoo parking attendant ‘Mr S W Barrett of 35 
Westbury Lane’ who blagged fees for twenty years 
from an unofficial space on the downs, that the 
last decade of receipts are nothing more than a 
brazen fraud. That the land is ours, it isn’t theirs at all?


Beach protest over Brancaster land grab claims


Bates – Published: 01 September 2021

Land rights campaigners held a protest at 
Brancaster beach car park over the weekend to 
back local commons rights holders embroiled in a long-running disagreement.

Ten protesters from the Land is Ours campaign 
camped out on an area of land which is part of a 
dispute between the rights holders and the Royal 
West Norfolk Golf Club and the National Trust.

Tony Gosling, who came up from Bristol to lead 
the protest, said they saw it as something of a 
feud and an example of private landowners 
extending their boundaries and grabbing land and rights holders losing out.

Brancaster Marsh Common covers several thousand 
acres and parts of it have been registered by the 
golf club and the Trust.The common rights holders 
and parish council dispute the land ownership 
claims and are also disgruntled that they are not 
receiving enough compensation for being unable to 
exercise historic rights which date back to the 
Enclosures Act of 1765 and would have made the parish the owner of the land.

Although they don’t own any of the land, the 
300-plus members of the Scolt Head and District 
Common Rightsholders Association (SHDCRA) are 
entitled to historic rights over the land for 
activities including shooting, fishing and grazing.

Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car 
Park, over the Bank Holiday Weekend

They claim that if they are not able to carry out 
these activities they are entitled to 
compensation and feel they are also entitled to a 
portion of any income from the land.

The beach car park is one area under dispute. It 
is run by the golf club which, according to the 
rights holders, also claims to own it.

Rights holder and parish councillor, Stephen 
Bocking, said that although the club had 
registered the land it occupies it has never 
produced the deeds to prove ownership and all 
SHDCRA receives in compensation is £100 for some fencing on the land.

“We just want to get people round a table to talk 
about it but all we get from the golf club are 
solicitor’s letters,” he said. One letter arrived 
in response to the protest action.

Chris Cotton, another rights holder and parish 
councillor, said that they welcomed the support 
from the Land is Ours campaigners although they 
had no idea they were coming to Brancaster until a few days beforehand.

Mr Gosling said they were not there to be 
disruptive – just to try to bring people together 
in what had developed into something of a feud.

He said: “It amounts to a difference of opinion 
between the traditional rights holders and new 
money which holds the legal clout,” he said.

Mr Gosling said they had an opportunity to chat 
to those involved over the weekend and hoped 
their intervention might bring the parties together face to face.

The issue will be on the agenda at a parish council meeting next Tuesday.

The Land Is Ours was founded in the 1990s by 
George Monbiot, now a leading figure with Extinction Rebellion.

The golf club has also been contacted for comment.


Norfolk salt marshes could be declared off-limits


Murphy Published: May 14, 2018

Salt marshes in north Norfolk could be declared 
off limits to the public under proposals being 
drawn up by Natural England.The public body wants 
to exclude the general public from accessing 
areas of marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells.

It says the measures, which are included in its 
proposed route of the England Coast Path between 
Hunstanton and Weybourne, would ‘have the effect 
of enhancing existing conservation objectives’.


Local water sports activities are held on the 
marsh areas of Burnham Overy Staithe

In a report outlining the measures, officials say 
that the establishment of the England Coast Path 
could attract more walkers to the area, 
increasing pressure on birds such as terns, redshank and ringed plover.

Two locations have also been identified as 
supposedly ‘unsuitable for public access’.

Natural England said it made the decisions 
following advice from selected ‘local 
stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’.

However, proposals have angered and frustrated 
many in the coastal communities who have said 
there has been a lack of prior notice to the proposals.

Burnham Market resident David Baldry has said the 
proposals are ‘poorly thought out’.

He said: ‘The salt marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe 
provides for a host of recreational pursuits.

‘In the warm summer months at low tide, many 
local children go swimming along the creeks after 
school, mud sliding on the banks, collect 
samphire, families and visitors to the area 
explore the creeks and salt marshes – this access 
to a wonderful wild and natural environment is 
what draws tourists to Norfolk and contributes so 
significantly to our rural economy.’


The sand and marshes at Burnham Overy Staithe. 
Natural England have proposed to exclude the 
general public from accessing the marshes due to 
it being “unsuitable for public access

Michael Smith, who lives in Burnham Thorpe, is a 
common rights holder and would not be affected by the proposals.

He said he accepts the conservation needs at 
Wells but says there is no risk to public safety on the marshes around Burnham.

The 47-year-old, who is also chairman of the 
Scolt Head and District Common Rights Holders 
Association, said he does not feel Natural 
England is providing answers to questions to his questions.

‘When you ask around there seems to be no local 
stakeholders who say they have been asked,’ he 
said. ‘I have asked but they clearly are not preparing to give names.’

Natural England’s response

Natural England have said the proposals will not 
affect any existing access to the marshes for 
common rights holders or other walkers who use 
the area through informal agreements with landowners.

Sarah Dawkins, area manager for Norfolk and 
Suffolk, said: ‘When developing our coastal 
access proposals we have to make sure they don’t 
impact negatively on the environment, or create 
unforeseeable safety issues for walkers.

‘Following advice from local stakeholders and the 
Royal National Lifeboat Institution, we’ve 
proposed some restrictions excluding the new 
coastal access rights from just two areas of 
saltmarsh at Wells and Burnham Overy Staithe.’

People are encouraged to view the proposals and 
to comment up until Wednesday, May 16, 2018.


Locals put boot in as Natural England’s Coast 
Path threatens access to Norfolk salt marshes


Plans to protect wildlife alongside a Norfolk 
stretch of the trail around England are angering residents and artists

Leake, Environment Editor – Sunday April 22 2018


Philip Platten, centre, and wife Christine with 
other dog walkers on the coastal path. He says he 
wants to be able to take his grandchildren on the marshes too

England’s ambitious 2,800-mile Coast Path project 
has become stuck in the mud of Norfolk’s north 
coast over plans to ban access to the surrounding 
salt marshes used by ramblers, dog walkers and fishermen for generations.
Natural England (NE), the government’s 
conservation and ‘rewilding’ quango, says it 
wants to protect seabirds and wildlife from the 
surge in ramblers when the coastal path formally 
opens – by banning access to land around it.
However, the plans, which are part of a public 
consultation, have infuriated residents, 
prompting protests along the coast, from the 
seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea to Holt.
‘I will be visiting the marshes whenever I want 
and I challenge anyone to stop me,’ said Godfrey 
Sayers a renowned local artist

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And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, 
he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and 
gave to them. 
<http://biblehub.com/luke/24-31.htm>31 And their 
eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he 
vanished out of their 
sight.  http://biblehub.com/kjv/luke/24.htm 
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