A FAMILY is locked in a David and Goliath battle with a Government agency over land it needs to develop a massive business park.
The Homes and Communities Agency has taken civil action to evict the Missing family from two plots of meadowland surrounding their home, in Gardiners Way, Basildon.
The couple argue the land is theirs because they have used it for more than ten years.
However, the agency, and a series of other organisations, have been trying to develop a major business park and homes complex across the whole Gardiners Lane South area for the past 25 years.
The plots in question and the family’s home fall within the boundary of the proposed development site.
At Southend County Court, Michael and Pauline Missing said they had used the fields for various activities, including as a play area for their three children since the 1980s and banning them from the land would breach human rights. Speaking on behalf of her parents, Jolene Missing, said: “My parents have believed the land was ours since 1987. We had tree houses on there and have always done fruit picking, of plums and pears there. We grazed ponies on there and my brother used it for martial arts training.”
She added the family had maintained the land, strimming the area and cutting back hedges, and using it to gather wood.
The family said when they purchased their neighbouring home called Mount Lodge, the solicitor had explained they had ended up with more land than expected.
The Missings hope to use a legal loophole, allowing someone who has had possession of a third party’s land for more than ten years uninterrupted, to legally take ownership.
Stephanie Tozer, representing the agency, disputed the Missings genuinely believed they had ever owned the land, and had merely taken advantage of it.
She said in 1995 they even made a written approach to a predecessor about buying it.
She said: “I cannot think by letting children play there or grazing ponies was seeking possession of the land. It amounts to minor trespasses.
There has been no real attempt to oust the true owner.
“There has been no attempt to fence off the land and no buildings have been erected, with any development, including a dojo for martial arts training, built within the 70- feet frontage of Mount Lodge.
The activities on the land, if at all, go no way to a claim for adverse possession.”
She said in 2008 the Commission for New Towns had registered the land in its name and from this point the family could have not reasonably believed it was theirs.
She also said the other two empty plots known as Rose Lodge and Lawn Lodge effectively tripled the size of the property and could not have been purchased unbeknown to them.
Mrs Tozer said a series of checks on the land by surveyors and agency staff on the land over the past decade had shown no evidence of the family using or attempting to take over the land.
Judge Patrick Moloney QC asked for details on why it would breach their human rights to lose access to the land and they said this would be provided should the decision go against them.
Judge Moloney reserved judgement in the case to a later date.
Keep out: HCA sign off Gardiners Way
Ill-fated plans for a major business park off Gardiners Lane South have caused bad blood between the Homes and Communities Agency and the Missings since 1991.
That was when predecessor the Commission for New Towns first announced plans for a business park, which never got off the ground.
A series of variations of the scheme have failed to get going due to funding problems, with a major new junction needed off the A127.
Essex County Council is still trying to get the millions needed to build this and get it back on track.
In the meantime the Missings claim to have lived under a planning blight – unable to sell or develop their home bought in 1987 due to the threat.
The Homes and Communities Agency has bought out a number the Missing’s neighbours, but the family has refused to budge, despite the threat of the use of compulsory purchase orders, which have yet to be used.
Pauline Missing told the court: “We have not been able to do anything with our home because of this threat of development which has hung over us for 25 years.”