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Long-running Castel carpark case nears end

Thursday 06 December 2018

Long-running Castel carpark case nears end

A legal dispute, knee-deep in the medieval history of Guernsey, has finally come to a close after more than 10 years.

The Bailiff should now be able to deliver a judgement on whether the Constables of Castel were trespassing when they had work carried out on the carpark opposite the slipway to Cobo bay.

The dispute has been ongoing for years, with local company AW Holdings claiming it has ownership of the site. They said the Constables should have asked for permission before paying to have the area tarmaced. They are asking for £10,000 in damages because of "trespass and conversion".

But the Constables have always argued it is common land, and not owned by anyone, therefore it was their 'parochial duty' to have the work done.

Castel Douzaine Room

Pictured: The Castel Douzaine rooms. 

The arguments heard in court this week stretched all the way back to the 11th Century, with discussions over which Fief the carpark was in. Guernsey was, once, split into around 50 Fiefs akin to smaller parishes. The different jurisdictions were essentially different tax areas, and each had a Seigneur who collected the taxes from the residents.

Deliberations centred around trying to indentify whether the Cobo Carpark was in Fief De Carteret, which the owner of AW Holdings also claims to have purchased in 2007, or whether it fell inside another Fief, such as Fief De St Michel or Fief De Contre. During the latest court hearing, which took place over three days this week, conveyance documents were produced dating back to the 1700s - all written in French - which tracked the transactions the land has been through. 

Court_4.jpg

Pictured: Guernsey's Bailiff sat to hear the legal arguments this week. 

One crux of both sides argument was "Secages" - areas of land locals used to dry at seaweed to use as fertiliser. This was the use of the land dating all the way back to the time of the Normans, and was a major industry around Guernsey.

This week, an expert witness, Historian Dr Ogier, was cross examined before the court to explore the history of Fiefs in Guernsey to try and unravel the confusion surrounding this site. He essentially told the court, in his view, the land was not part of the Fief AW Holdings said it was.

While both sides now agreed the site has been used for sometime by the public as a carpark AW Holdings' Advocate Barnes said he had presented evidence which proved the land was inside Fief De Carteret, and therefore belonged to his client.

AW Holdings purchased the ownership of the Fief from its former Dame, Kathleen Holyrood, in 2007. Dame Holyrood allegedly acquired it in 2004, and was told it included this site. 

On the other side of things, Advocate Dunster, representing the Castle Constables, argued that while they were not claiming to have ownership of the land themselves, it was impossible for AW Holdings to prove it had ownership. He said there were four potential sources of ownership, the three Fiefs, and also more recent titles, which he demonstrated through his compilation of conveyance documents.

Advocate Dunster was joined by HM Procurer, as the court supported the defence. 

vraic Guernsey Museums website

Pictured: Vraic gathering, which was once done at Cobo (image from Guernsey Museums website). 

One thing did change at the final hour, however, as Advocate Barnes and AW Holdings tried to amend their claim, shifting it from one of ownership to a claim more centred around possession. This amendment relied on an agreement that was allegedly signed by the Douzaine in the late 1980s, however the Bailiff said there was not enough evidence surrounding the agreement for him to allow that amendment. 

In summing up, both lawyers made arguments centred on both ownership and possession.

The Bailiff expects to deliver a judgement soon. 

Pictured top: The carpark makes up the corner of the Route De Carteret and the Cobo Coastroad. 

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