Evicted farmers launch war appeal

16 February 2001

Evicted farmers launch war appeal

By FW reporters

FAMILIES of farmers evicted from British farms during World War II are launching an appeal for compensation using new human rights legislation.

A group called the Dispossessed Farmers Association has contacted relatives of up to 100 farmers evicted for failing to meet wartime food production targets.

They are seeking to fund a test case under new European Union human rights legislation which came into force in Britain last October.

The association is run by Jim Adams, who told FARMERS WEEKLY how his parents were evicted from their family farm in Denbighshire, North Wales.

The War Agricultural Executive Committee terminated the tenancy despite the familys plea that the poor land stopped them growing more food, he said.

No compensation was paid and the family never returned to the farm. Mr Adams, who was 13 when the war ended, now works as a hairdresser in Suffolk.

“My parents refused to obey what they believed were instructions impossible to implement – planting potatoes in three inches of rubble and mountain slate.

“It is my belief that the taking of property – for whatever reason or purpose and without any leave to appeal – was then, and remains, an illegal act.”

Over 13,000 other tenancies involving more than a million acres of land in England and Wales were also terminated, FARMERS WEEKLY has confirmed.

Charles Nunn was evicted from a 96-acre farm at Darsham, Suffolk, despite having taken on the farm derelict and brought most of it back into production.

Having only hand tools, Mr Nunn was evicted after being unable to clear the scrub-infested fields. His son Robert now farms in the neighbouring parish.

He said: “What always annoyed my father was that the entire farm was planted with mustard, which didnt produce a handful of food for the war effort.

More than 50 years have passed since the evictions. But a court could decide that special circumstances mean the cases should be heard.

The campaigners believe they have a moral right to compensation.

They are also mindful that artwork looted by the Nazis during the war was only recently returned to its rightful Jewish owners.

Della Evans, an expert in agricultural law at Bristol-based solicitors Burges Salmon, said: “Deprivation without compensation is one of the big no-nos.”

Ms Evans confirmed that depriving individuals of property breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government might argue that the land was taken for the greater good of the country but in such circumstances, individuals usually received compensation.

Ms Evans said: “That did not happen here.” As the domestic court could not override primary legislation, the case must be taken to Europe, she added.

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