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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 09:59 GMT
Village anger at lord's charges
 Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts has defended the use of his title in the past
A man is trying to charge people living in a south Wales village up to 45,000 each for parking their cars on their drives, after he bought a hereditary title for 10,000.

Cardiff businessman Mark Roberts is demanding the payments from each of the families living in Peterstone, between Cardiff and Newport.

He claims he acquired the rights to the common land, including pavements and verges, when he purchased the Lord Marcher of Trelleck title.

But residents are now furious that he is citing a 78-year-old act which claims people must get lawful authority from the owner to drive over his common land.

Many have united to fight the charges, and are supported by a local councillor who believes they can escape on a technicality.

It is not the first time Mr Roberts, 41, has stoken up similar controversy.

In 2001, he incurred the wrath of the east Staffordshire village of Alstonefield by exercising ancient laws.

Now he has sent letters to 40 home in Peterstone demanding nine per cent of the value of their home, and is threatening legal action.

He is also asking for a contribution of 411 to cover his costs in preparing his case against them.

In an interview three years ago he defended the use of the title, saying he had inherited it.

Ruth Winstanley parking her car on her drive
Ruth Winstanley was "flabbergasted" by the letter
In a letter, his solicitor Donald Gray tells residents that his client "would prefer an amicable settlement" but is prepared to "litigate matters to a final conclusion" if the letters are ignored.

Retired mechanical engineer Alan Thorp, 76, described the bills as "nothing short of extortion".

Housing officer Ruth Winstanley, 48, faces an 18,000 bill.

"I was flabbergasted when I received the letter demanding I pay for the right to park my car in my own drive," she said.

"I've never heard of such an outrageous thing in my life.

"There is no way we can afford to pay this amount and will fight it all the way.

"The final straw was that we pay towards his legal fees."

However, Mrs Winstanley said some families have already paid up after their lawyers warned them that fighting could cost more.

The householders are appealing to the Welsh Assembly, and to Newport West MP Paul Flynn.

Local councillor Tony Boswell said the letters were "the worst kind of scaremongering".

"As far as we are concerned Mr Roberts has no claim to the majority of these homes," he said.

"I have been informed by council officials that most of the homes are served by side roads which we regard as public highway and the pavements are council-adopted.

"We would argue that this means the residents will not have to pay this iniquitous charge and the council will back them."

Mr Roberts' solicitor Mr Gray said that neither he nor his client wished to comment on the matter.


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