In 2016, Blenheim Estate posted notices in Stockey Woods under the Commons Act 2006. They hoped to establish that there was no automatic right of access to the woods according to law. If successful, Blenheim could close off access to the whole of Stockey Woods, leaving just one public footpath.
In response, a group of Stonesfield residents applied to register Stockey Woods as a ‘Village Green’. If successful, this move would maintain access to the woods ‘as of right’, rather than by the permission of Blenheim Estate. Over 70 villagers supplied witness statements testifying to continuous use of Stockey Woods.
Last August, in response to Stonesfield’s application, Blenheim submitted a formal objection to the County Council (the Registration Authority). Jim Astle replied, as solicitor on behalf of the applicant (in effect the village), rebutting their objections. The County Council has now appointed an Inspector to hold a public inquiry, and to report what he thinks the decision should be and why. There is to be a pre-inquiry meeting in mid-August to determine the issues, number of witnesses, length of the inquiry, procedures etc.
Sustainable Stonesfield, which didn’t exist in 2016, is now supporting the campaign to get the woods made a Village Green. Blenheim will no doubt be represented by experienced, specialist and very expensive lawyers. To give the village the best chance of success, it may be necessary to pay for specialist legal advice – £4,000 to £6,000 – although we hope to get much of our legal advice ‘pro bono’ (no charge).
The purpose of this email is to ask villagers if they would be willing to pledge £25, £50, £75 or more to fund the campaign. We don’t need the money right now, though we may need some soon, but we do need to know how many people would be prepared to contribute to the campaign, and how much. Please email your pledge to:
The matter at issue is Blenheim’s protested right to close off the whole of Stockey except the one public footpath. They may be unlikely to do so but who knows what they will do if they have the power? Remember, they tried to block the Baggs Bottom footpath. If a Village Green is registered, the right of villagers to walk their dogs, study nature, play on swings in the Dell, walk the myriad footpaths not currently on the definitive map, etc. would be enshrined in law. That’s something worth fighting for.
Richard Morris, Sustainable Stonesfield
P.S. Knowing how much we might raise is important to how we proceed, so please pledge as soon as possible.