2005-10-23

Intolerance: Land sale to Fix Castle in Test Court Case

The DE BOYVILLES have been the lairds of Kelburn Estate in Ayrshire for more than 850 years -- a reward for helping William the Conqueror win 'The Battle of Hastings'. But 'The Viscount of Kelburn', 'Baron of Fairlie' and 'the 10th Earl of Glasgow', Mr.Patrick Boyle faces a fight of his own to save the family castle from crumbling. The 66-year-old hereditary peer wants to sell part of his land for housing to help meet a 1.5_million_GBP bill for essential repairs to his 60-room mansion. But he has been forced to launch a court action to prevent his neighbours using 'right-to-buy' legislation and jeopardising the deal. Residents of the nearby village of Fairlie have successfully registered an interest in the 15-acre strip of land under new laws passed by 'The Scottish Executive' in 2003, claiming they want to turn it into a recreation area. It means that if any part of the land is resold, they will have first option to buy. In what will be a test case of the new legislation, Mr.Patrick Boyle is asking the courts to overturn the registration.
'They can't stop the sale to the developer going through, but every time a house is sold they will have an option to buy,' he said. 'This makes the deal much less attractive to the developer. 'Fairlie is a retirement village of reasonably well-to-do, middle-class people and I believe they just do not want more houses to be built there. 'I think new housing will invigorate the place, bringing in families, and give it the lift it needs. I am the goodie in this case, not the wicked landowner.'
The De Boyvilles -- the name was anglicised in the 18th century -- claim Kelburn is the oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously occupied by one family. It was transformed into a tourist attraction and country park by the present earl, a former filmmaker, in 1977. But visitor numbers to the 3_700-acre estate have dwindled from a peak of 90_000 in 1995. Land has already been sold to help clear large debts, but Mr.Boyle now says he needs to do a housing deal to pay for vital repairs.
'The wiring needs renewing and the chimneys, roof and downpipes are in a serious state of disrepair,' said the aristocrat. 'Architects said it needed 1.5_million_GBP spending on it, but if I can even raise half that, then I can get the work started. 'I really do need this money because I have been putting off the repairs for a long time and just patching things up.'
The land to be sold is next to Fairlie, a picturesque village on the coast opposite Great Cumbrae island. It is currently used for grazing but was, until recently, earmarked by 'The Scottish Executive' for a road bypass. But Kelburn Estate successfully appealed at an official inquiry into this designation last year 2004. In a ruling in 2004-09, 'The Scottish Executive's' 'Reporter' agreed the land could be used for housing, with an unusual caveat. She said she would agree to the change in land use as long as most of the profits flowing to Mr.Boyle were used to support the castle. Mr.Boyle will take a percentage of the takings from each house sold, potentially netting the estate hundreds of thousands of pounds. He is adamant that the community council -- through a newly formed body, the Fairlie Land Acquisition Company -- only declared its intention to register its interest in the land after the housing plan became public knowledge.
'I understand the point of the Land Reform Act,' he said. 'In the past, people who lived and worked on the land as tenants and who genuinely have an interest in the land should have a "right to buy". 'But these people never had any interest in the land whatsoever until they found out about the housing. 'This is not what the "right-to-buy" legislation was about. 'It is there to protect people who have a genuine interest in the land, not those who don't like what's going on over their fence.'
The appeal against the right-to-buy registration will be heard at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in 2006-01.
'This is something of a test case,' Mr.Boyle said.
Community councillors in Fairlie, which has a population of around 1_500, said they registered their interest in the land because they wanted to use it as a community asset. Council secretary Mr.Steve Graham said:
'We are interested in taking the land into community ownership for a sports field and community woodland or something like that. 'Lord Glasgow has decided he does not like the fact that we are registered and he has taken out a writ against us. If it is rescinded it will give him the green light to go ahead with the housing development. 'But the people in "The Scottish Executive" are sure we will win the case as our claim is properly registered under the law as it stands.'
Mr.Graham claims that the council decided to go ahead in registering an interest in the land before the reporter's recommendations on changing its use emerged in public in 2004-11.
'When we started to carry out a poll of local people, as we had to do under the legislation, the land was still designated to be retained as a bypass. It was low-grade industrial land,' he says. 'This is nothing to do with stopping a housing development. 'We started the "right-to-buy" process before the reporter's views became known.'
He added, however, that development of 115 new homes would swell the village's population by about a third, swamping local services.
'The primary school is already full and the local secondary has to turn people away,' he said.
'Our view is that another 500 people, including 50 or 60 children, will make matters worse.'
'Villagers vow to tackle earl over land sale', Jeremy Watson, Scotland on Sunday, 2005-10-23

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