Lawyers Succeed In Judicial Review On Behalf Of Locals Battling To Save Playing Fields From Development
Consett residents campaigning to save an area of land known as Belle Vue playing fields are celebrating today after a judge quashed a decision by Durham County Council to refuse an application to register the land as a town or village green (“TVG”) – which would protect it from development.
A group of local residents, known as the Consett Green Spaces Group (CGSG), is battling to protect a large area of green space in the Belle Vue area of Consett, in County Durham. The 44-acre playing fields are owned by the local authority, Durham County Council, which wants to build an academy on the site.
CGSG objects to the development of the academy on that site, arguing that there are other, more appropriate sites on brownfield land which wouldn’t impact on the town’s green space.
In a bid to save the playing fields, the CGSG made an application to register the land as a town or village green. This would mean that it must remain as open space.
The group instructed public law experts at Irwin Mitchell to seek a judicial review of Durham’s decision to refuse TVG status on the grounds that it was an error of law.
Judge Roger Kaye QC, sitting in the Administrative Court in Leeds, has now ruled that the decision to reject the application was flawed, sufficient to justify quashing it.
Stephen Williams, a public law expert at Irwin Mitchell representing CGSG says the latest victory means that the land cannot currently be built on..
Williams said: “The Judgement today is one more step towards protecting the Belle Vue playing fields for the future. The council cannot build on the land as things stand.
“This land has been used extensively by the public for over 20 years for activities such as walking and football and our clients think it is vital that this green space is protected. They will now press again for Town and Village Green status which will preserve the space for recreation for future generations.”
John Campbell, a spokesman for the CGSG, said: “We are delighted at the decision today. While we are not opposed to the building of the academy we believe there are much more appropriate brownfield sites available. There are fewer and fewer green spaces left in Consett and we want to protect Belle Vue for use by the residents of Consett. Registering the land as a Town and Village Green will help us achieve this. We call upon the Council to abandon its ambition to build on Belle Vue and to find another site which would not deprive the people of Consett of this valuable open space.”
The CGSG argued that a significant number of local residents used the playing fields, lawfully, for recreational activities, and had done so for over the last 20 years, all of which are necessary criteria to register land as a TVG.
But an inspector during a public inquiry recommended the refusal of TVG status, and his recommendation was followed by the Highways Committee of the County Council. The judge had to interpret a deed made in 1964 about the use of the land. The Judgement today sides with the CGSG in claiming that the deed has been misinterpreted and the Council must now reconsider its decision to refuse registration of the land as a town or village green.