CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight any plans to develop a wildlife haven despite losing a costly legal fight to retain the land’s “village green” protected status.
Clayton Fields at Edgerton, Huddersfield achieved village green status in 1996, protecting it from development but residents have been involved in a protracted legal fight with the landowner.
The Supreme Court ruled this week that the land must be removed from the greens register.
The case turned on whether the developer’s 12-year delay in challenging village green status was unreasonable. The judges held that there was no evidence that anyone was prejudiced by the delay in determining the status of the land and found in favour of the developers.
The Open Spaces Society, which supported the Clayton Fields campaign group, said the decision gave a “green light to developers to grab village greens.”
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Society, said: “We are dismayed by this decision which gives a green light to developers to grab our village greens. It invites them to unpick the laws which were intended to protect land which local people have cherished for recreation, and to challenge whether the land should have been registered as a green.
“It is particularly worrying that a delay of 12 years in challenging a decision is held to be acceptable. This comes on top of recent law changes which make it easier for developers to grab land which is used and loved by local people.
“This is a black ruling for village greens, but we shall continue the campaign we have fought for the last 150 years to help people secure their open spaces for informal recreation.”
Bill Magee, of Clayton Fields Action Group, said the legal battle was over but the group would oppose any planning application for the land.
“We are only now just realising how much of an impact changes we make to the land have on our immediate situation. For example, every tiny additional piece of ground that is concreted over adds to the weight of the flooding issue. Clayton Fields village green will be sorely missed and the simple fact is that it cannot be replaced. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
“There is very strong feeling amongst the people of the locality that Kirklees Council should object to any development in this conservation area. At the very least, it must insist that a large section of this land be preserved as a wild parkland. Clayton Fields Action Group, and very large numbers of local people, stand ready to assist the Council with the vital preservation of this area in any way they can.”
Mr Magee revealed that the campaign had been costly; the most recent hearing cost £11,000 in legal fees.
Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan said: “It is a big blow for the local community. Current legislation is not strong enough to protect local amenity spaces.”