Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Compulsory Purchase Order Snettisham Land Grab
In the early 1930s concerns were growing about the impact of increasing motor traffic on the sixteen mile stretch of road from King's Lynn to the popular seaside resort town of Hunstanton, Norfolk. A bypass to three bottleneck villages, Dersingham, Ingoldisthorpe and Snettisham was mooted at local council offices.
By 1982 the idea was accepted, in principle. Things don't move all that quickly in Norfolk! Following a further seven years of red herring protests by people with beards, because they could, the final route was fixed and Compulsory Land Purchase orders sent to affected land and property owners on 7 March 1989.
The operating open land storage site of former Neville Day Plant Hire Ltd., still in family ownership on the former three and a half acre Snettisham railway station and adjoining rail sidings, was due to be bisected by this new A149 bypass.
The government Ministry in ultimate charge of the project saw fit to appoint Land Agents and Surveyors to act on behalf of recipients of compulsory purchase orders. In a sort of charade of suggesting there would be fair play.The particular firm our family joint owners of the land were directed to deal with were nice enough people but totally, completely and utterly ineffectual. Achieving absolutely no headway in negotiations of an anyway derisory government Compulsory Purchase Order settlement offer. My Stepfather thus never saw a Penny of the Compulsory Purchase Order compensation payment before he died, in November 1990. Five years after my Stepfather's death and as Executor of his Estate my Mother, increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress, thus asked me if I would help, and I agreed. The following morning I dismissed the Ministry appointed local Land Agents. They weren't happy. By this time in my career though I had built up a not inconsiderable amount of experience in dealing with tossers. The prospect of dealing with chinless wonders in Whitehall on my own and without so called 'professional' help, did not phase me.
The scene is set Monday around 2pm in my business's rented offices in Snettisham, Norfolk.
The classic on this occasion being it was the last time I saw a man in a bowler hat, a morning suit jacket and grey, pinstripe flannels. Whitehall costume. If his choice of attire for a visit to Norfolk was intended to impress I have to say he failed. Particularly in Norfolk, where we had only recently learned to dispense with Woad, and had actually started wearing clothes, along with desisting from rudely dispatching insurgent Roman Centurions wearing pleated, leather skirts!
Me: "Six years we have waited for a settlement on this matter and the by-pass is built and opened for more than four years already for goodness's sake! When are you going to make us a reasonable offer for OUR land, or do we have to erect a barrier across the new bypass? As it is OUR land the bypass is built across I propose we charge a toll for each vehicle. With an average 16,000 vehicles a day using it then with a modest toll of just 20p per vehicle, within a month we could make £100,000! Queues would stretch ten miles all the way back to King's Lynn but that would be your problem. Not ours!"
Man from the Ministry in bowler hat: "We offered you £3,700 an acre, which is the current going rate for agricultural land in Norfolk, and an acre is what we took."
Me: "Yes, but you landlocked and permanently buggered up access to another acre and a half in the process."
Bowler, after fumbling with a Casio calculator for a minute: "OK. Granted. We'll agree to offer you £9,250 then. Do we have your agreement now?! That's two hundred and fifty percent more than our previous offer for goodness sake!"
Me: "What rates are payable on agricultural land?"
Bowler: "None. Agricultural land is exempt from rates. EVERYONE knows that!" (snort followed by snigger).
Me: "That's what I thought. Along with EVERYONE else up here in 'backward' Norfolk. So I'll accept your offer of £9,250. Plus reimbursement of the average £385 per acre in Commercial Land rates we have paid for two and a half of the three and a half acres of land, over the past twenty five years! COMMERCIAL land which incidentally we paid well over three times the going rate for agricultural land, twenty five years ago. (snigger, snigger, b***** louder snigger!)"
Bowler: "Gulp. OK. You have a point. I can agree to £33,250 in total. I can understand your family's frustration."
Me: "Can you? Oh good. Fine then. Plus interest!"
Bowler: "Gulp, gulp. That could come to as much as... .. ."
Me: "Yes, that's right. With interest, compounded, and after adjusting for inflation, it comes to roughly £85,000. But please feel free to check. I can accept your cheque this afternoon."
Bowler: "I am only able to release £50,000 upon my own recognisance, before gaining higher authority, and I can only promise you will have that by the end of the month. The rest you'll have to wait for. Probably for six months. What's the hurry anyway? You said you've waited six years already!"
Bowler's utterance: "The rest you'll have to wait for." Is what is known in my trade as 'A buying signal.' I therefore decided to quit with escalation tactics whilst I was ahead. To cement the deal I continued with:-
Me: "Would you like to explain that to my parents please? Who are joint owners, along with my brother, sister and me?"
Bowler: "Certainly. Where are they?"
Me: "My Father is in Dersingham cemetery just down the road where we buried him five years ago and two years after you took ours and his land, with, I might add, all of our full family support and blessing. My mother is in the house next door, upstairs in bed and with terminal cancer."
Bowler: "Oh. (gulp), I'm sorry to hear that. I'll get an agreement drawn up for you and posted within the week."
Me: "No need." I opened my desk drawer and produced a single A4 typed document. I placed the document ahead of Bowler on the desk and somewhat theatrically rotated it. "I've already prepared it. Before you arrived. You will note for £85,000. Sign here please."
Bowler signed, adding a hand written codicil that his agreement was provisional and subject to further examination and counsel for final valuation.
Half an hour later and after calling a taxi for him, Bowler had left. Our nice but frankly totally ineffectual and blundering family lawyer, but whom I was obliged to request attend as witness, said:
"Good grief I have never heard anyone work like you. Where did you learn to do that?! You could come and work for us!"
Me: "It's what I do. It's called business. Would you like me to arrange a lift for you to the station?"
Solicitor: "No, thanks. It's OK. Can you call me a taxi too please?"
For that episode I received an invoice from our solicitor for £1,000. As he had contributed absolutely nothing I refused to pay it. Instead I sent him a couple of hundred Pounds to cover his expenses and time. He never argued.
HM Ministry agreed to my demands in full and paid within the month. For the whole amount and without further argument.
Work resulting in turning £3,700 into ££85,000* and for which, apart from my late Mother, I received not one single word of recognition from any member of my ultimate family beneficiaries, let alone thanks.
* £174,000 at today's values.Dersingham Bog
Return to Preface © Copyright Chris Latham-Smith February 2022.