Action over land grabs

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[from Muswell Hill Journal]

Action over land grabs

nlnews@archant.co.uk
01 May 2008

OWNERS of a Muswell Hill house that allegedly had its back garden extended onto a nature reserve have been forced to remove a fence on the contested site.

This comes as Haringey Council announced a crackdown on illegal movement onto council land – known as encroachment – with 40 properties across Parkland Walk and Palace Gates nature reserves targeted.

The garden of the Cranley Gardens house – which backs onto Parkland Walk – was extended with grass laid and a new fence put up about a year ago.

Barry Darlow-Stearn, vice-chairman of the Friends of Parkland Walk, said: “This has been clocked.”

The group was due to discuss the issue at a meeting last night (Wednesday).

But Alexanders Property Consultants, Park Road, Crouch End – who own the property – say the fence was removed on April 7 and new site boundaries have been agreed with the council.

A spokesman for the company said: “We realised there was a problem. We approached the council and enquired whether it was possible to buy the land. That’s when we found out new legislation would be coming out but we were told in the meantime we would have to take the fence out.

“We would be interested in any way to assist the parkland not destroy it.”

But residents and a Parkland Walk action group fear land is being lost to creeping boundaries.

Dawn Miles, Friends of Parkland Walk committee member responsible for the northern stretch, said: “There has been encroachment over a number of years in a number of places and bits of land have been nibbled away here, there and everywhere.”

The four-mile walk runs from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace via Highgate, and is a designated nature reserve as well as a site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and Metropolitan Open Land.

Councillor Bob Hare (Liberal Democrat, Highgate) has called for the council to take “firm action” and said “it should never have got to this point”.

A meeting of the council cabinet on April 22 agreed new encroachments across Haringey would not be allowed – but old cases would be treated on an individual basis.

Councillor Dhiren Basu, Labour cabinet member for leisure, culture and lifelong learning, said: “We cannot sit back and allow people to break the law by hiving off pieces of public land. Where householders have illegally extended their property onto public open space we will take enforcement action.”

A council report on the issue says “encroachment is illegal” and highlights in some cases “damage could be irreparable and could lead to the loss of priority species”.

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