Villagers will have to cough up an extra £10,000 in tax following a dispute over a tiny piece of land.
Last year, a row ensued between Aston Clinton Parish Council and Ed and Linda Peile over ownership of a stream in Aston Park, which runs alongside the Peile’s home at Old Rectory Farm.
The council claimed the land belonged to them but is now forking out £10,000 in compensation to the Peiles.
After lengthy negotiations, it has been decided that the council will pay the cash as an out-of-court settlement after solicitors pointed out the cost of a court hearing was likely to soar to in excess of £50,000, with no guarantee of winning.
Now those living in the villages’ 1,600 homes have been hit with an average rise of £1.40 a month in extra council tax to foot the bill, which is being awarded to the Peiles to compensate for damage to their property and the distress caused.
But council chairman Richard Maskell admitted that the figure does not account for the Peiles’ legal costs, which, could be in excess of a further £10,000, which the council will also pay as part of the agreement.
When villagers questioned the rise in council tax at last week’s parish council meeting, Cllr Maskell had to explain the situation.
He said: “It’s an historic piece of land that the public has had access to for more than 40 years.
“We negotiated for months, and an outline agreement was drawn up. This was not ratified by the council at first, but was upon further consideration.
“During the delay the neighbour instituted court proceedings, but the council was advised by their solicitor that the cost of a hearing could be between £25,000 and £50,000 with no certainty of success.
“At the time the council’s insurance did not cover the defence of this type of legal action, so it made an ‘out of court offer’ that was accepted.”
Professor Peile said: “It has been an absolutely horrendous time, and we are very saddened about the huge cost that it is incurring on the taxpayers. I genuinely hope there can be learning and healing from this.”
The couple made a complaint to Aylesbury Vale District Council against Cllr Maskell last summer, but council confirmed the investigation is still ongoing.
Mr Maskell denies all allegations and says he and fellow councillors have always acted in the council’s best interests.
If he is found to have breached the code, the parish council can censure him, arrange training or ban him from holding outside appointments or undertaking other responsibilities.