Campaigners have lost their long-running bid to register land next to an expanding primary school as a village green and save it for community use.
A public inquiry has ruled against members of the Friends of Gledhow Field group who have been fighting since 2015 to keep the land open to the public after Gledhow Primary School fenced it off in preparation for its expansion.
In his report, planning inspector Alun Alesbury found that while residents showed their neighbourhood had been able to use the land recreationally for the last 10 years, he was not satisfied this had taken place over 20 years - the statutory time limit for village green status.
The applicant, local resident Paul Sellars, was one of 16 residents who spoke at the five-day inquiry.
He said: “I’m sad obviously, for the community who won’t be able to use the field. That’s the main thing. It seems such a shame.
“It’s been hard work and stressful, going around, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, having to prepare the legal stuff for the five day hearing, which in itself was pretty daunting.
“People are naturally disappointed - it’s a very important part of the community.”
Planning chiefs at Leeds City Council made the decision to go to a public inquiry after admitting it had a “conflict of interests” as landowner, local education authority and Commons Registration Authority, which registers village greens.
The council and the school’s governing body were both objectors at the inquiry.
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “The Council, as Commons Registration Authority, wanted to make sure there was a thorough assessment of the merits of the case for a village green at Gledhow. We understand these decisions sometimes mean one group of local people’s wishes take precedence over another group, and this is why we believe it was right to ensure an independent inspector could make their decision in a transparent and impartial way.”
“The planning inspector has now agreed it is not suitable to approve a village green application and we will reflect upon the decision and look at working with the school and the local community moving forward.”
Background: Looking back at the long-running Gledhow land row...
**In 2015, Gledhow Primary School fenced off land next to the school ahead of a planned expansion to become a three-form entry from 2016, to meet local demand for places.
**The school said the land was needed to provide a playground after the expansion to ensure pupils had the same quality of outdoor education.
**Friends of Gledhow Field, group strongly objected to it being fenced off, arguing it had always been used by the community, and submitted a bid for it to be classed as a village green.
**Parents at the school then began a counter-campaign and said over 350 letters opposing the village green application had been sent to the council.
**A public inquiry was held in December last year into the issue, with the inspector’s decision now made public.