Monday, 23 September 2013

Chronicle errors - an update and a further update

I learnt this morning that the Chronicle's editor has agreed that they got their story with the Castle Park caption 'spectacularly wrong.'  I had asked CWaC's press officer to contact the editor regarding the errors affecting CWaC.  I am told they will be publishing a retraction this week.

I've also asked FTC's Town Clerk to contact the editor regarding the errors that affect FTC.
Let's see if the Chron gives equal prominence to correcting the errors as they gave to the error strewn story?

UPDATE - now I thought the above 2 paragraphs was pretty uncontroversial stuff - I didn't deal with the Chron I left it to the CWaC Press office - imagine my surprise to receive the following tweet from the Chronicle:

Michael Green@ChronicleEditor:
'Just to clarify, we have agreed that two words were wrong and will print a correction and apology on Thursday.'

OK - two cheers for the Chron - being proactive, acknowledging that there had been errors - however so far as I am concerned the errors go far deeper than two words.  But for me - this isn't enough.

So I tweeted back:
'the errors are profound.  Nothing to do with Castle Park, misleading photo (in my view), no gift, no imposed restriction.'

Since then this particular part of the tweetasphere has been quiet.  So I decided to do a bit of digging of my own.

The opening paragraphs of the PCC Editor's Code state:

1 Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

2 Opportunity to Reply

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

OK Mr Green - thank you for engaging so far - however you need to recognise your paper's errors go beyond two words. 

The Park Lane story has nothing to do with Castle Park;
The larger photo in your story and its caption were and are in my view very misleading
The references to the land [Park Lane] being 'given' ie a gift are simply wrong - it wasn't;
Similarly those selling the land did not impose any restriction on the use of the land as a recreation ground - it was the then Frodsham Parish Council that declared its intended use. 

You can check the facts very simply by a visit to Castle Park where the history of the park and how it came to be owned by CWaC (not FTC) can be seen.  You can also check with the Land Registry - and to make that task easier here are some relevant pointers for you:

The following is a quote from FTC's Land Registry title to the Park Lane play area - it is one of the shortest you will ever see 

A: Property Register:
The freehold land shown edged red on the plan... 

B: Proprietorship Register:
1 PROPRIETOR: Frodsham Town Council  ...
2 The value stated at 9 July 2001 was ... [Note this was/is a Stamp Duty requirement and is not relevant]
3 A Conveyance of the land dated 27 November 1939 made between (1) Albert Berry Weaver and George Herbert Garratt (Vendors) and (2) The Parish Council of Frodsham (the Council) contains Purchasers personal covenant(s) details of which are set out in the schedule of personal covenants hereto.

Schedule of Personal Covenants
1 The following are details of the personal covenants contained in the Conveyance dated 27 November 1939 referred to in the Proprietorship Register:-

'The Council for itself and its assigns hereby covenants with the Vendors that the Council and its assigns will forthwith fence off and at all times afterwards keep effectually fenced off the said property from the adjoining property of the Vendors.'

That's it - no more covenants.  So no covenant or indeed any other form of restriction about this being a play area.  Even if there was the law allows any council to sell off such land.  FTC has received legal advice to this effect.

I also have a copy of the Abstract of Title describing the 1939 Conveyance - no longer relevant given that the title is registered but it deals with the sale of the land. When describing the operative part of the conveyance it states:

'In pursuance of the said agreement and in consideration of the sum of £50 then paid by the Council to the Vendors...'

In other words this was a sale. It wan't 'given' or 'donated' it was a sale - at what looks like the market value for open or agricultural land at the time.

The average price for agricultural land in England in 2012 was about £6,200 per acre.
This plot of land is much smaller than an acre - but I've not done the measurements.  £50 in 1939 equates to just over £2,000 in today's money. 

Castle Park and its grounds were gifted to the then Runcorn Rural District Council (a predecessor of CWaC) just under a decade before the sale of Park Lane took place - and a visit to Castle Park and the plaques on the wall will show this.

So Mr Editor - you got much more than 2 words wrong in my view - please correct all your errors.