A parish council is set to take on the ‘Lord of the Manor’ in the High Court to decide who has ultimate control of a disputed piece of land.

The High Court showdown in mid-July between Rettendon Parish Council and “self-governing” trustees, including parish councillor Roy Hart, is expected to see a final judgement on each of their claims to the recreation fields opposite the Rettendon Bell, known as Bell Field.

The longstanding dispute between certain members of the parish council, which is now collectively known as the Rettendon Bell Fields Trust, centres on the ability of the parish council’s claim to appoint new trustees.

Leader of Rettendon Parish Council, Cllr Adam Fleming, contends that the parish council is responsible for the ongoing management of the Trust.

Cllr Hart believes that responsibility for the management of the two charities was passed to him and the other trustees who were appointed in 2013.

The dispute can be traced back to then when the parish council changed from acting as the sole trustee to electing named councillors as trustees, and by a group of people – “managing trustees” –  asserting that they have somehow acquired the authority to be self-governing.

Mr Hart, who holds the title Lord of the Manor of Rettendon, and who hit the headlines seven years ago years after sending notices, which he has never acted on, to residents saying that he can hold fairs and pageants in their gardens and charge them for any repairs needed to the local church, has argued that his group of trustees have no confidence with the parish council as a trustee of the ground.

He said: “Our argument is three fold – the charity commission has been backing us up. We found out that since we have been appointed by the charity commission as well we are self governing and we feel we have a duty to protect those fields from being sold from the parish.”

The fields were part of Rettendon Great Common and awarded to the “Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor” in the 1861 Inclosure Award.

The parish council, which has racked up legal bills of more than £55,000, says it does not have the authority to decide to sit back, ignore the mess, and waive its powers, duties and liabilities.

Cllr Fleming said: “The defendants keep persisting in telling us they have not sought advice and yet when you read through documents it’s pretty clear reading between the lines that there is someone who knows about law giving them a nudge in the right direction.

“But essentially the best analogy is that you own a house, someone goes and squats in your house and when you say out, they say no we have the right to be here because we have redecorated it nicely and have kept it clean.

“Well that has nothing to do with it.”