Who is responsible for unowned spaces?
This question came rather vividly into my mind when visiting some constituents the other day.
The constituents in question live on a private road. It is a pleasant rural setting, with banks, trees and hedges aplenty.
But they have a problem.
One patch of the land in their vicinity has no obvious use and no obvious owner. As a result, it has been allowed to degrade somewhat — and gives a distinctly untidy appearance, as well as being a magnet for rubbish dropped by less than scrupulous passers-by.
I hope we may be able in this case to establish an owner, and hence begin to address the problem. But just suppose for a moment that we really can’t find anyone who claims ownership. What do we do then?
And, in case you are tempted, dear reader, to dismiss this as a one-off, I should add that I am simultaneously involved in a slightly different problem where the same issue of vanishing owners is at stake. In this case, there is a need to adjust the configuration of a few square feet in order to improve the safety of children getting to and from school — and all the plausible parties seem convinced that they are not the owners of the land in question.
One would have thought that, in an island as crowded as ours, every square inch would be fully accounted for. But it is not so.
If anyone has a bright idea about how best to deal with this, I’d be very glad to hear about it. In the meanwhile, I am putting on my thinking cap….