Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting CHNEWS to 80360, or email
Blow for campaigners fighting housing plans for Steeton
10:00am Friday 19th October 2012 in News
Campaigners fighting to save village fields from development in a David and Goliath battle have been dealt a major setback – and cannot afford to fight back, according to a leading lawyer.
A bid by people living in Steeton to have fields off Thornhill Road designated as a village green looks almost certainly to be rejected, leaving the door open for 220 homes to be built there.
The latest blow was delivered by independent inspector David Manley QC, who has recommended that 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 (Thursday) leaving campaigners with few options in their battle to save the fields.
And leading property litgator 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.
But Mr Pugh said Mr Manley struck out the argument that a significant number of the residents of the parish of Steeton with Eastburn were making use of the fields, despite 120 witnesses supporting the application made by long-time campaigners Shona Cole and Joanne Stokes. “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.
“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.
“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 a report to be presented to the council’s miscellaneous licences panel, which meets at Bradford City Hall at 10.30am today, says the evidence was not strong enough.
Mrs Stokes, who has been leading the campaign to fight the homes plans, said opponents will need to regroup and decide what to do next.
“We are a bit sad about it all,” she said. “We got so far and had quite a good case.”