Flemings win fight for site where Bond author wrote

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The Independent Online

The family of the James Bond author Ian Fleming won a costly boundary dispute yesterday with their neighbours, who are relatives of Lord Lucan.

A judge at Oxford county court ruled the fugitive aristocrat's descendants must replant trees they felled on a narrow strip of land to which both sides lay claim.

After the decision to award the Fleming dynasty £9,000, but leaving aside the matter of an estimated £120,000 in legal costs, Lord Lucan's cousin, Victor Bingham vowed to fight on.

"Many people lose at county court level - the High Court is much more fair. We are planning to appeal," said Mr Bingham, 40, a publishing director from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. "There is nothing in the judgment that is beyond overturning."

Over the past 18 months, two of Britain's best-known families have been embroiled in a dispute over land beside the cottage where Ian Fleming is reputed to have dreamt up his first Bond novel, Casino Royale.

Kiln Cottage in Oxfordshire was bought in 1960 from the author's brother, Peter, by the family of Lord Lucan, the peer who disappeared mysteriously in 1974.

The run-down 17th century cottage, inhabited most recently by Mr Bingham's aunt and co-defendant, Rosemary Mackenzie, 63, borders the Nettlebed estate in Oxfordshire. The Flemings bought the estate in the 1900s.

At the centre of the grievance is a 5ft-wide strip of muddy grass running between the two properties.

The dispute began in January 2004 when Mr Bingham, as part of a £150,000 renovation to prepare the dilapidated Kiln Cottage for sale, felled trees to the north and west of the property. Mr Bingham also levelled some ground near the £650,000 cottage.

He claimed that the toppled trees were in danger of falling on to the cottage, but the Flemings maintained they were not his to chop down.

In March 2004 the Flemings were granted an injunction banning the Binghams from setting foot on to the strip, which they said was common land owned by the Nettlebed estate. In May this year, they took the Binghams to court.

Judge Guy Hungerford ruled in the Flemings' favour yesterday, granting £1,128 to replace the felled trees, up to £6,000 to remove soil tipped on the land, which is roped off, and £2,000 in "exemplary damages" from Mr Bingham who was labelled as the "prime mover".

These sums are expected to be dwarfed by the legal fees, a combined total for both sides of about £120,000. A hearing to decide costs will take place at a later date.

The judge said: "The damage to the claimants trees and to the configuration of their land was part of a deliberate and sustained trespass carried out for gain.

"In my judgment, this was an opportunistic trespass by the defendants, carried out with the plan of enhancing the attractions of Kiln Cottage to potential purchasers."

During the week-long hearing the court heard how Mr Bingham told a dog walker to get off his land in February 2004. When asked what he meant, he said he was "taking possession" and the estate could not stop him, adding it was "pay back time" for the land in Ireland which Britain had taken from his family.

Mr Bingham said after the hearing: "A snowflake can turn into a snowball which can cause an avalanche, and this has avalanched out of control. This is ridiculous for a boundary dispute. The land in question is worthless to the Nettlebed estate and it's worthless to us."