Retired builder claims Bovis Homes development in Gloucestershire infringes ancient rights to breed rabbits

A retired builder is blocking a 2000-home development in Gloucestershire by claiming he has ancient rights that give him the title of “Lord of the Manor of Hempton and Northwick”.

Timothy Shorland, who paid £7500 for the title in 1990, claims he has rights to a piece of land near Filton airport, north of Bristol. The site is owned by BAE Systems, which wants to build 2000 homes on the land.

Mr Shorland claims the development, which is in partnership with Bovis Homes, infringes his rights to breed rabbits on the site. He also claims the right, under a royal Charter from 1331, to hold markets and fairs, to excavate for minerals and to fish.

The claims have prompted BAE Systems to go to the High Court to obtain a ruling on whether he does have any rights under the charter. In a writ submitted to the court BAE’s lawyers say it would be “oppressive” to grant Mr Shorland these rights and that any entitlement he might have should be “limited to an award for damages.”

The case will be heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court.