Villager pays up but fight continues

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A businessman has been forced to pay up thousands of pounds to the Duchy of Lancaster, whose revenues go to the Queen – or face losing his home.

James Fearnley, from Goathland, who we featured on our front page last week, has told the Whitby Gazette although has now paid £20,000 to the Duchy or face a £120,000 legal bill, he is not giving up his fight to challenge them over the financial levies they are imposing on villagers.

The researcher and manufacturer of natural medicine has been wrangling with Duchy after they tried to claim 50% of profits he has made from a car park he owns in Goathland, of which they claim to own a tiny strip of land which meant cars were passing illegally from the road to the field.

We reported claims of how many villagers were too frightened of speaking out and the story of one man, Adrian Caulder who had to pay the Duchy £40,000 for change of use when he converted his hotel into four houses.

Mr Fearnley said: “Adrian and I want to thank everybody who has contacted us since the Gazette report came out for their messages of support.

“The story has touched the national press and regional press and TV.

“I have not met with anyone who has not reacted with absolute astonishment at what the Duchy are doing and the methods they are using to raise money.”

Mr Fearnley said the most worrying thing that has emerged is the extent to which people in Goathland are afraid to speak publicly for fear of making things worse for themselves.

“This says a great deal about how the Duchy are perceived. Personally I have paid £20.000 this last week and shortly I will be expected to pay £450 per month for four years, plus £2,500 per year annual license fee plus the cost of insuring the field as specified in the license. I don’t know how I am going to do this.”

Mr Fearnley will now be asking for an independent body to review the scale of payments that can be charged.

He also believes that people should be able to claim back money overpaid including money for the Duchy’s legal costs in the form of a class action mounted by all those who have been “overcharged.”