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‘New laws will harm villages’
New laws making it tougher for campaign groups to have land allocated as a village green is a plot to destroy communities, claims a Steeton campaigner.
Starting this week, it is more difficult for land to be registered as a ‘village green’ – a classification protecting it for recreational use.
The government claims the system has been abused and that ‘spurious’ applications are being used to block housing developments in rural areas.
They maintain legitimate applications will stay protected, but local campaign groups say it will make it even harder for communities to fight housing developers.
To have land designated as a protected village green, residents have to prove it has been used by the community for recreation for at least 20 years.
Shona Cole, whose group lost its fight to save local fields from housing, said the clampdown would see villages merge together.
Steeton Village Action Group attempted to have fields at Thornhill Road designated as a village green in its fight to stop Redrow Homes building a housing estate of more than 200 homes on them.
Mrs Cole, one of the protesters behind the Steeton campaign, said: “This is another ploy to destroy villages.
“It is very difficult to fight a big organisation – they have the money to just throw at legal challenges.
“Soon, there will be no green spaces left – the villages will have just merged into one. When the government says it wants to protect green spaces, it is a load of rubbish.”
The warning was echoed by ward councillor, Andrew Mallinson, who said the odds were now stacked heavily in favour of developers and landowners.
He added existing laws had already made it almost impossible for campaigners to get local land classified as village greens.
Coun Mallinson said: “The rules are full of loopholes – this is where it gets really hard for people.”
He added the experience of the ‘hard-working and dedicated’ Steeton group illustrated the difficulties.
“The application process has always been long, drawn-out and complicated,” he said.
“It’s about trying to raise money for legal fees against multi-million pound developers, and to have proof of 20 years’ continuous use of green open space, with photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts, is extremely difficult.”
Coun Mallinson said there are other worrying aspects, such as allowing statements by the landowner to take precedence over residents’ evidence.
A number of village green applications have recently been made in Bradford district, but all of them have been dismissed.
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