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Pensioner Derrick Bensted in battle with Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company over split house

By James Rose

Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company boss James Green says he is open to negotiations to buy a “split down the middle” seafront house from an elderly pensioner.

His most recent offer of £100,000 to purchase Stag Cottage in Sea Wall, was rejected by 89-year-old Derrick Bensted as “insulting and ridiculous”.

The offer also included alternative accommodation for the rest of Mr Bensted’s life.

Derrick Bensted's home has been cut in half amid a legal wrangle
Derrick Bensted's home has been cut in half amid a legal wrangle

The retired taxi driver has been living in half the property ever since a wall was built down the middle on August 23, 2004.

This followed a decision at Canterbury County Court based partly on evidence supplied by a surveyor who determined the boundaries of Mr Bensted’s land and that of WOFC.

Since this time Mr Bensted has been living in substandard conditions with many residents claiming the back of the property, belonging to WOFC, is a visual blight along the seafront.

The divide meant he lost his kitchen, use of a main bedroom and can no longer use the veranda looking out to sea.

Mr Green claims that the saga continues because Mr Bensted still seems unwilling to negotiate. He said: “I don’t want to see a 89-year-old man living in those conditions.

Mr Bensted is refusing to sell up - despite the condition of the home
Mr Bensted is refusing to sell up - despite the condition of the home

“It has always been our opinion that the property needs to be developed in total. It would be very difficult to just do our half.

“I don’t think it is the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company’s fault he is still there, it is his choice.

“He’s got an opportunity to get out and does not want to take it.

“The offer still stands at £100,000 and we would negotiate with him to find the alternative accommodation he would like.

“We are open to negotiations, he could get an independent valuation showing us what he thinks it is worth and he could come to us.”

Mr Bensted described what it is like to live in Stag Cottage.

He said: “I have everything I need in my half.

“It does get cold living here and the upstairs bedroom next to the wall is so cold and dark it is unusable.

“On their side there has been trouble with pigeons coming in and messing on the floor and there is only one sheet of plasterboard dividing their side from mine, which was supposed to be a short-term solution.

“The company offered me £100,000 and it is insulting and ridiculous, this is a big house with three bedrooms.

“This is a nice little place along the seafront, one in a million.

“I would be quite happy staying here, it’s near the sea and the shops and I don’t want the hassle of moving and why should I?”

“The company offered me £100,000 and it is insulting and ridiculous, this is a big house with three bedrooms" - Derrick Bensted

Mr Bensted inherited the property from previous owners, mother and daughter Mrs Blair and Ms Blair, in 1993.

When taking over, he was aware of an ongoing legal dispute and eventually moved from Ocean Cottage next door in 2000.

The mother and daughter had tried to register the whole property as theirs with the Land Registry in 1971, but were only granted half due to an 1860 agreement.

This agreement still exists as a Victorian document and was interpreted by Land Registry in 1971 to show that publicans leased the premises, beach and shore from The Free Fishers and Dredgers in 1860.

In 1896 The Free Fishers and Dredgers became the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company.

Mr Bensted’s son-in-law Blake Mackinnon has been looking into the history of Stag Cottage ever since legal proceedings began in 2004.

He claims that nobody has correctly understood the data during the court case and it has been a collection of errors since 1971.

The home has sea views
The home has sea views

He said: “Both parties relied on the expert advice they were given and also the court relied on their own individual surveyor as evidence.

“Mr Bensted has continued to challenge the judgement in various ways and I have attempted to help.

“We spent quite a few days in Canterbury Cathedral looking into the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company archive and historic papers of the Commissioners of Sewers who owned the old Sea Wall.

“It became clear that the barristers and other professionals, Land Registry too, had not correctly assessed the survey, geographic and historical aspects of the case.

“The investigations over the years leading up to hearing lacked rigour, were superficial and in effect the position is just a massive registration error compounded by legal cock-up.”

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