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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Common land victory for villagers
The fence that keeps villagers out
The barbed wire fence stopped dog walkers and horse riders
Villagers in North Norfolk have won their two-year fight over common land.

Baron's son, Robert Harbord-Hamond, 42, claimed ownership of Hanworth Commons but villagers said the 35 acres of grazing land belonged to residents.

Judge Patrick O'Brien at Norfolk County Court ruled it belonged to the people in the village and ordered Mr Harbord-Hamond to pay 25,000.

In April 2005 the son of the 11th Baron of Suffield fenced off the common to stop villagers walking their dogs.

Last year the barbed wire fence was deemed unlawful by North Norfolk District Council which ordered Mr Harbord-Hamond to remove it.

On Thursday the court heard that he had written to one villager demanding 5,000 per year, or a lump sum of 50,000, to cut across the common to get to his house.

Robert Harbord-Hamond
Robert Harbord-Hamond, 42, claimed he owned the common

He had also threatened to seize cattle grazing on the land, and removed gates so the animals could escape.

Mr Harbord-Hamond had argued documents proved he had "paper title" of the common.

Judge O'Brien rejected his claim and rule villagers had title by virtue of adverse possession.

The law covering adverse possession allows an individual or group to claim land simply because it has been in their use for a certain amount of time.

Villagers have used the land since Saxon times.

After the hearing, Robert Corbishley, chairman of Hanworth Commons Management Committee, said: "Thank God for justice. We have spent the last two years of our lives embroiled in this. We are delighted."


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