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Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd v Dorset County Council

DATE: 13 Mar 2007

The court’s jurisdiction to amend a register of town and village greens was not an appellate jurisdiction.

The court was therefore free to adopt the procedure best calculated to enable a just and fully informed decision to be reached, whether it was just to rectify the register, what should stand as evidence and what evidence should be admitted.

Mr Justice Lightman so held in the Chancery Division in determining two preliminary issues in a claim by Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd against Dorset County Council, for an order under section 14 of the Commons Registration Act 1965 for the rectification of the register, by removing from it an area of undeveloped land which the claimant had acquired.

In 2000, the defendant authority, heard and allowed an application by a member of a preservation society of Markham and Little Francis, Dorset, for an area of undeveloped land to be registered as a town or village green under section 13 of the Act.

In 2004, the claimant, a property developer, acquired the land and brought proceedings under section 14 for amendment of the register by the removal of that area of land from it. The court ordered the trial of two preliminary issues, the first of which was whether the jurisdiction conferred on the court by section 14 to rectify a register was by way of rehearing or appellate or on some other basis.

MR JUSTICE LIGHTMAN said that the language of section 14 did not suggest that the role of the court was the exercise of an appellate or supervisory jurisdiction or that the jurisdiction should only be exercisable if the registration authority in directing registration of an area of land made an error on the evidence before it, or made an error of law.

On the face of the statute, the court was free to adopt the procedure best calculated to enable a just and fully informed decision to be reached.

The court, in the exercise of its case-management powers would have regard to the process adopted by the registration authority when the amendment of the register under section 13 of the Act was made and the evidence adduced before it.

Section 14 imposed no fetter on the evidence or arguments which might be relied upon to establish that no amendment or a different amendment should have been made, or whether or not it was just to rectify the register.

It would a matter for the judge, in the exercise of his case management powers, to decide the procedure to be adopted and what should stand as evidence and what should be admitted as evidence at the trial.

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