The power to ruin your strawberry crop

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The Independent Online
Last summer the crop of pick-your-own strawberries and raspberries at Andrew Hope's farm in Gloucester was ruined by dust from improvement works on the A46. Mr Hope's claim for £23,597 is still outstanding because the builder and the Highways Agen cy, which contracted the work out, disagree about who is responsible for paying the compensation.

In South Glamorgan the Rhymney relief road has been built right through a farmer's land, passing close to his house, destroying his drainage system and cutting off some fields from the rest of the farm. He has been told he will be compensated only for the drainage system. He is being offered no money for the loss of the land nor for the fall in the value of his house.

It is incidents such as this that have provoked the Country Landowners Association (CLA) to call for a complete overhaul of the rules governing compulsory purchases. Though the majority of cases arise in rural areas, the rules apply equally to householders in the cities and suburbs.

One reason for the association's timing is that many of the authorities that used to force owners to sell their houses or land for reasons of public interest are now private companies acting in the interest of their shareholders. Should the private water, telecommunications and waste disposal companies have the same powers as government departments, they ask?

What the CLA would like is to see a big reduction in the use of compulsory orders and an increase in negotiations between owners and potential purchasers. If they cannot reach a settlement privately they would like the matter to be settled by a new Acquisitions Agency, to avoid the current costs involved in going to a Lands Tribunal.

The CLA also wants the organisation or government department which has initially made the compulsory purchase order to be held responsible for providing compensation. This would speed up payments to victims like the pick-your-own farmer.

In 1903 the philanthropic MP John Burns opened the new Latchmere Estate in Battersea, south London. The wide terraces cost £360 each to build and provided flats to rent from 7s/6d a week with kitchen range, bath and communal gardens. Now the terraces built for "the working people of Battersea" have become homes to the middle-classes who moved from Chelsea. John D Wood (0171-228 0174) is selling a first-floor two-bedroom flat in Burns Road for £83,000.

n Country estates often provide some of the best properties to rent for city dwellers who want a weekend bolthole but cannot afford a second home. Most are small, cheap, redundant agricultural workers' cottages.

On the Ballington Estate in Wiltshire they have something rather grander. The Mill House sits right on the River Wylie, with streams surrounding it on both sides. It has been converted into a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a sitting room looking out over the old mill workings to the river. Hamptons' Calne office (0249 822771) is offering it for a monthly rental of £1,800 which includes a gardener and a housekeeper.

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