Land dispute: Shaken and stirred

Families of Lord Lucan and Ian Fleming locked in bitter dispute over 'worthless' 5ft strip of land
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The Independent Online

A chunk of "worthless land" is fuelling Britain's most expensive domestic boundary dispute and even threatens to bankrupt one of the families.

The problem began when Victor Bingham, the 40-year-old cousin of Lord Lucan, chopped down some trees outside Kiln Cottage in Oxfordshire, which he jointly owns with his "honorary" aunt, Rosemary Mackenzie. On the neighbouring Nettlebed Estate, the Fleming family were not happy. The trees were on their land, they insisted. They won an injunction banning Mr Bingham and his aunt from setting foot on the muddy strip.

However, Mr Bingham continued to fell the poplars, and last month Guy Hungerford, the recorder hearing the case, ruled in the Flemings' favour, granting £9,000 in damages to fund replanting the trees. But Mr Bingham is continuing the struggle, demanding that the case be reconsidered. So far the costs have rocketed to £400,000 - a bill judges have ruled Mr Bingham should pick up. Last week Mr Bingham was forced to sell his £855,000 business headquarters in Henley-on-Thames to try to settle the costs. He says he faces bankruptcy as the case heads towards appeal.

"People may say that we have lost our sense of perspective but I feel a terrible injustice has been done to my family," he said. "The Nettlebed Estate, which takes care of the land for the Fleming family, has used a hammer to try to crack a nut. We didn't ask for this litigation but even when we tried to settle the dispute they insisted on taking us to court. "

The Flemings refuse to discuss the case.

Mr Bingham says he will use the proceeds of the sale of his business property to fund the appeal. He also claims that one of the judges in the case had a conflict of interest, because he believes the judge used to work for a solicitors firm that had connections with the Fleming family.