Campaigners ‘need a miracle’ in fight to protect village playing fields from development

Green space campaigners admit they need a miracle after losing their bid for a blanket ban on possible future development on playing fields in their village.

Tuesday, 2nd April 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd April 2019, 7:49 am
Green space campaigner Lilan Milne at the site

The final decision on land at Oakleigh Gardens, Cleadon, is now in the hands of South Tynesikde Councoil bosses after a public inquiry recommended the site’s cricket and football pitches should not be protected by village green status.

In his report, inspector Eric Owen said he believes non-registration should not affect the land’s continued use for sport and leisure.

Council chiefs would not be drawn on what happens next, saying only that a committee meeting would be held “in due course” but the Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group, which brought the case, said it does not believe the council will act in its favour.

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Spokeswoman Lillian Milne, of Elmsleigh Gardens, Cleadon, said: “There’s no way that the council is going to grant village green status having fought against it during the inquiry. It would be a miracle if they changed their stance.

“It would be great if they did, but I really can’t see them spending thousands of pounds to oppose it in an inquiry, only to then go ahead with it.

“Being disappointed at the outcome is an understatement, but we take solace in the inspector’s last statement and his view on the land’s future.”

The group wanted to permanently protect the site, which is mapped out as cricket and football fields at the north-west corner of the village.

There are no known development plans, but changing its status would have officially made it untouchable.

The council, which owns the land, claimed it had previously tried to stop people accessing the land - essentially removing any public status.

It said it had made “reasonable attempts” to restrict access, and some historic usage had taken place “not as of right”.

Mr Owen finished his report by stating Green Belt status was generally permanent and accepted the land had played, and continues to play, a significant role in recreational, health and visual terms.

He concluded that “non registration may well have no effect in practice on the continued ability of the public to use and to enjoy the subject land with its self-evidence benefits.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The application was considered by an independent inspector, in accordance with established practice for Village Green applications.

“The inspector has recommended that the land should not be registered as a Village Green.

“The council’s Village Green Committee will meet in due course to consider the report and determine the application.

“As the council has a dual role in this case, as the land owner and the local Commons Registration Authority, and as the final decision on the application is yet to be taken, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”