Public Inquiry 8th January 1913 Assembly Rooms, Freshwater
A public inquiry chaired by Mr. H.G. Hetherington, A.M.I.C.E. an inspector of the Local Government Board was held in the Assembly Rooms, Freshwater on Wednesday 8th January, into the application by the Rural District Council to borrow £500 in order to purchase the Esplanade at Freshwater Bay [owned by Capt.Cross.]
Opening the proceedings Mr Stratton [clerk to the R.D.C.] said the area of the parish was 3528 acres and the population at the last census was 3192 [3306 in 1901], The rateable value was £15,262 and the outstanding loans were £22,154, the sewer account had an overdraft of £600 which had been outstanding for four years and the rates last year were 3s 4d poor and 3s 2d special a total of 6s 6d.
They were now asking to borrow £500 for the maximum period possible, possibly 60 years, as a provisional agreement to purchase the land had been reached but at this point no monies had been paid. Plans were then produced showing the proposed scheme, and it was stated that the land was in the centre of the bay and the parish did not want to lose this opportunity to acquire the land, as the opportunity may never arise again. The owner had refused to negotiate, but had accepted the terms now before the inquiry, the council thought the owner had been fair in the discussions and decided to accept his offer.
Give additional background information Mr. Stratton said that in 1876 the piece of land being discussed today had been leased to a number of public spirited within the village for a period of 999 years at a rental of £20.00 per year. However there was a clause in the lease setting forth “that in the event that a local board was elected for the district, they should have the power to deal with the piece of land to the public advantage”. A further condition allowed the vendor to re-entry the ownership if the rental was not paid, and this was the present case. During the last 36 years many changes had taken place, and all but two of the original leaseholders had passed away, and only one Dr. Hollis remained in the parish. Dr. Hollis for many years has personally paid the rent, however under the terms of the original lease there was no provision for the appointment of new leaseholders. One has to assume that when the original lease was drawn up it was assumed that an urban or district council would have been set up, but unfortunately that has not been the case. Dr. Hollis and others have kept paying the rent for the benefit of all, unfortunately last year the rent was not paid and the owner exercised his right and foreclosed the lease. The owner had now offered the land to the parish for a fixed price of £500.00 providing the sale was completed within 6 months.
Mr. Stratton at this point gave further details of previous events concerning the parcel of land. Some years ago there was a scheme prepared for a group of local people by Mr. Douglass, and paid for by Sir Charles Seely who was chairman. At the time the owner was prepared to sell the land for £500 and give back £300 towards the proposed work, but the scheme never got off the ground.
In June 1904 a petition was sent to the Rural District Council with a copy to the Local Government Board by Lord Tennyson and other and about 188 parishioners. They were complaining about the state of the road in the vicinity of the Albion Hotel, which was getting worse every winter and was not a good advert for visitors in summer. The petition also pointed out that the parish had been trying for 10 years to obtain urban powers to deal with their own affairs but this had been opposed by the Rural District Council.
Lord Tennyson asked to whom the petition had been sent.
In reply Mr. Stratton said, to the District Council and a copy to the Local Government Board, there was an exchange of views about the lack of progress on this matter. Mr Stratton then went on to say that if the parish borrowed £500 over 60 years the repayments would amount to around £21 per annum; currently the parish had borrowing powers up to £3,500. In 1629 a petition had been sent to the government and the land in question had been mentioned in that petition at that time, it had been proposed to cut a channel through the land and let the sea flow through, the scheme also included bridges. At this point there was much debate about the visitors who came to Freshwater and the state that the Esplanade was in and the possible loss of trade if the land became private.
At this point Mr. Adrian Jerome handed over a petition signed by more than a 100 ratepayers, who, were generally the largest payers in the district; they supported the purchase of the land, saying this was the only access to the sea front they had and the opportunity to acquire should not be lost. He also said, that the present owner had indicated that if the purchase of land did not go ahead, he would most likely fence the land off, and public access would be denied. Further support for the proposal came from a guesthouse proprietor who said it was essential that the land was purchased in order to ensure that visitors would continue to visit Freshwater Bay.
Mr Edwin Parker then presented a petition signed by a 100 ratepayers who opposed the purchase and said and said the purchase price was to high. The land on offer amounted to three fifths of an acre, therefore this represented £833.00 an acre, which was excessive. All that people wanted was a strip of land, which gave access, and they already had access on both sides.
Mr Toogood, chairman parish council responded and said this was not the case. There was a slipway on the Albion side and on the other side.
Mr. Stratton at this point stated the later had been sold.
Mr Parker then questioned the maintenance costs per year for the sea wall, and was informed £10.00 material, the owner Capt Cross, own men doing the work. He was also informed that the Rural District Council supplied the material. In response Mr Parker then said the objectors main concern was the ongoing maintenance cost and proposed that Capt. Cross be given a £1000 to maintain the sea wall for 25 years [note; - this proposal was not accepted]
At this point Mr Stratton said that over the last four years or five years the District Council had spent over £300 in grants towards the upkeep of the sea wall, construction of a slipway and groyne in the area under discussion. If the land was purchase it was reasonable to assume that the same support would be given if the land was publicly owned. The District Council could not afford to allow the sea wall to be breached, and the subsequent damage that would be caused.
Mr Parker then asked if the land was not purchased would the public still have right of access, Mr Stratton responded and said council opinion had been sough and so had the Common Preservation Society, in both cases, legal option was that there was no right of way.
After further discussion the inspector closed the inquiry and said he would visit Freshwater Bay.
Editors note: - We have not located the final judgement, but today the land is in public ownership.
Source: Isle of Wight County Press - 11th January, 1913.This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:29