People in Epping Forest can register to vote in the City of London Corporation's next elections for verderers, but only if they own half an acre
THERE will be a chance to decide who represents the views of the community to the ancient body that governs Epping Forest – but only if you have half an acre to spare.
The City of London Corporation, which is responsible for managing the forest, is calling for people to register to vote for verderers, who have a role similar to that of local councillors.
Anyone who owns or occupies at least half an acre within the ancient boundaries of the forest can apply to join the Corporation’s Register of Commoners, to enable them to vote in elections, which happen every seven years.
The condition of land ownership dates back to a time when commoners were required to have enough space to graze their cattle if they had to be moved out of the forest.
Paul Thomson, the City of London Corporation’s Superintendent at Epping Forest, said: “When the deer were dropping their fawns, all the cattle had to be taken off the forest so the deer were not disturbed.
“That’s therefore the basis of registration and it’s been kept as tradition.”
Richard Morris, a current verderer who represents roughly the area of the Epping Forest district and lives in High Gables, Loughton, said he tried to speak to as many people as possible for his role.
“When people contact us, we will go and see them,” he added. “The verderers welcome anybody who has any issue about the forest to get in touch and we will take it up to make sure action is taken.”
He said the current land ownership system for registering voters was not perfect, but worked.
“The difficultly is to find something better,” he added. “Someone might say ‘why can’t the same people on the electoral register vote?’
“But there are thousands of people on the register and not all of them would be interested.
“I think the danger is also that it would become politicised.”
To find out if you are eligible and to register for the elections, which are due to take place in February, go to cityoflondon.gov.uk.
For more than 800 years, the verderers were judicial officials in the Royal Forest of Essex, of which Epping Forest is the remaining fragment, enforcing the forest laws in a similar way to a magistrate.
When the Epping Forest Act of 1878 was passed, the office of verderer continued but no longer with any judicial powers, and they became members of the Epping Forest Committee of the City of London Corporation.
Anyone who is not a member of the City of London’s Court of Common Council and lives in the parishes within the forest boundaries can stand for election as a verderer.
All royal forests used to have verderers, but Epping Forest, the New Forest in Hampshire and the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire are the only ones where the post remains.
In Epping Forest, two verderers represent the northern part, including Epping, Loughton and Theydon Bois, and two represent the southern end, including Walthamstow, Leyton and Wanstead.
The traditional role of verderers was to look after the ‘vert’ – trees and plants growing in the forest – and the venison, which covered deer and other animals that were hunted in the forest.
Other upcoming elections being held by the City of London include elections for Aldermen and councillors for the Common Council.