WISBECH: Residents fear they could lose half their gardens because council plans to sell the land

SHOCKED residents in Elm Low Road claim they face the prospect of losing half their gardens – because a council is planning to sell the land, the site of the former Wisbech Canal. Several home owners are getting together to fight the proposed sale of the

SHOCKED residents in Elm Low Road claim they face the prospect of losing half their gardens - because a council is planning to sell the land, the site of the former Wisbech Canal.

Several home owners are getting together to fight the proposed sale of the site, that has been part of their gardens for many years - convinced that the land already belongs to them.

"I have lived here all my life, as far as we are concerned, we own the garden land," said Ella Benstead, whose family runs Johnson's Garage.

"News of this sale came out of the blue, I could not believe it when I saw it, how can they say it is not ours?"


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The former canal was filled in around 50 years ago, and fences have been erected over the bed of the old waterway.

News of the proposed sale of the 0.9 acre site was delivered to residents on Easter Saturday, and the land is due to be sold by sealed bid on May 1.

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The Benstead family, along with neighbours Denise Thomas and her husband, are taking legal advice and hope to call a meeting of affected residents.

Mrs Benstead claimed: "The land cannot be built on, because of the methane gas that comes from the rubbish used to fill in the canal.

"A large gas main also runs alongside the tow path."

Mrs Thomas added: "There has been no consultation with the people who live here, and no offer to sell the land to us."

Mr and Mrs Thomas are set to lose an area of garden around 65 feet by 40 feet. But they believe the land already belongs to them under the provision of "adverse possession," because the land was fenced and maintained by them for more than 12 years. They paid an annual peppercorn rent of �2 for a couple of years, but have paid nothing for around 20 years.

Another neighbour, Wilhelm Lipphold, says Cambridgeshire County Council offered to sell him part of his garden back in 1996, but he heard nothing more.

"Nothing will grow on the land because of the methane," Mr Lipphold claimed. "I have never paid rent for it, I helped fill it in. I am taking legal advice."

NPS Property Consultants in Norwich are handling the sale of the amenity land on instructions of Norfolk County Council, who say the land will be sold with vacant possession.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: "The council acquired this strip of land, classified as garden and amenity land, in 1963 and has shared ownership with Cambridgeshire County Council following the county boundary changes in 1974.

However, Norfolk County Council manages the maintenance of the land. As far as the council is aware there are no active licences allowing residents to occupy this piece of land.

"We would advise anyone wishing to pursue a claim for "adverse possession" to seek legal advice. We have written to residents living in properties that neighbour this piece of land to tell them of our intention to sell this piece of land, and are happy to keep them informed of what's happening.

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