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Steeton fight against Thornhill Road homes hit with setback
Campaigners fighting to save village fields from development have been dealt a major setback – and cannot afford to fight back, according to a leading lawyer.
A bid by people in Steeton to have fields off Thornhill Road designated a village green looks set to be rejected, paving the way for 220 homes to be built there.
The latest blow was delivered by independent inspector David Manley QC, who has recommended Bradford Council throw out the campaigners’ bid without a public inquiry after an objection against it by developer Redrow Homes.
Councillors are expected to ratify Mr Manley’s decision at a meeting today leaving campaigners with few remaining options in their battle to save the fields.
Property litigator Matthew Pugh, who represents the campaigners on a pro bono basis along with barrister Anna Stubley, says the battle has now swung in the developer’s favour.
If the village green application had been approved, it would have meant Redrow would have been unable to build there, despite having planning permission.
“This is a developing and subjective area of the law, which despite attempts by the Government to water down statutory rights, still offers a real opportunity for communities to save public spaces from development,” said Mr Pugh, of Langleys Solicitors.
“We felt this was an important case to get involved with and to show all communities that they can have a voice.
“The residents would dearly like to appeal against this decision. Unfortunately, the applicants cannot take the risk of being ordered to pay the developer’s costs and there is no funding available.
“At present it is possible to register a village green if it can be established that a significant number of residents have used the land for recreational purposes for a period of at least 20 years. Since the 2006 Act came into force, village green applications have been a very effective way of stopping unwanted developments.
“The Government is proposing to change the law to make it harder to register village greens.”
The grounds of the residents’ case was built around the fact they had been using three fields off Thornhill Road as a public space for sport and recreation for many years, but the report to be presented to the Council says the evidence was not strong enough.
Campaigner Joanne Stokes said: “We are a bit sad about it all. We got so far and had quite a good case. We don’t really know what we’re going to do next.”