Runnymede Eco-Village wins court battle asserting rights under Magna Carta

By Nathan Lee, TLE Correspondent 

Community members from Runnymede Eco-Village are celebrating a momentous win after their application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, asserting rights under Magna Carta, was adjourned by a High Court judge.

In what was described by Pete Phoenix as a “major victory for civil liberties and land rights”, bailiffs for luxury property developers at the Runnymede site have been told to stand down after the High Court in London granted them a stay of execution in possession proceedings.

The land is sought by Orchid Runnymede Limited who want to develop it with the Royalton Group for the elite property market. Phoenix added that the decision opens “the discussion over access to land to enable people to live in a low-impact, sustainable and off-grid way.”

Mr Justice Knowles prevented Orchid Runnymede’s enforcement of a summary order of possession and directed them to immediately stand down bailiffs who had arrived at the village prior to the hearing. The villagers, many of whom had stayed at the eco-village to hold off the bailiffs had feared a Dale Farm-style clearance by the contracted bailiffs company Constant & Co. The judge questioned the need for a forthwith order and this is a matter that the villagers will raise at the appeal hearing, given the families and livestock on the land.


The judge ruled the stay of execution was necessary so the Court of Appeal could properly assess whether the eco-village residents were given a full and fair hearing in Guildford County Court on 15th June – the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The villagers’ case included assertions of rights under the Magna Carta, its companion Charter of the Forest and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Justice Knowles recognised the powerful symbolism of the competing interests in this “exceptional” case when he ruled:

“Given the exceptional location and the history associated with [Runnymede & Coppers Hill Coppice], and the competing and directly differing interests – one seeking possession of ancient forest [for private development] the other side seeking to remain on a site occupied for three years [and to continue to subsist in common from the land].”

In granting an adjournment, Mr Justice Knowles accepted that many matters previously raised by the applicants might not of been dealt with adequately by the lower Court, or dealt with in an insufficient manner, and directed an adjournment so this could be established .

Julie Timbrell of New Putney Debates and Occupy Democracy, groups who are among those helping the villagers with their legal case, said: “The Villagers sense of the lower court judgment was that property rights trumped all other rights. But villagers contended that this is wrong in principle and that the judge failed to address properly the villagers’ right to sustain themselves in the common realm, to live on waste land and to feed and house themselves through their own efforts, in community. Villagers pointed out that the Charter of the Forest, the companion to the Magna Carta, gave these rights”


11 Responses

  1. Natasha

    Awesome, lets hope the real reason for the stay is not to just wait until the dust settles and crush the case quietly mid winter when everyone’s looking the other way? I hope not. Winston would turn in his grave… “Land differs from all other forms of property.
    It is quite true that the land monopoly is not the only monopoly which exists, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies – is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly. It is quite true that unearned increments in land are not the only form of unearned or undeserved profit which individuals are able to secure; but it is the principal form of unearned increment which is derived from processes which are not merely not beneficial, but which are positively detrimental to the general public. ”

  2. kate

    Wow this is great news,love the runnymead eco village,such a great opportunity to practice sustainability on the land doesn’t come every day…special place,hope it keeps blossoming abundance.***

  3. Ben

    You are all talking as if they have won. They have not. It’s just a hearing adjourned, postponed, nothing more. It is some breathing space but they will be back in court.

  4. Andrea

    All power to your elbows folk in the Runnymede Eco village – you are making a really important contribution to the politics of land in this country, and it’s such hard work having any success against rising inequalities and richer and richer property developers who are increasingly allowed to drain the life out of people through exhorbitant house prices and rents. I wish you all well.

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