Village Green Battle won

Published: 12 November 2012


1 One of the old photographs showing the land used for 'sports and pastimes' 2. The land put up for sale in 2007 3. The site of the new Village Green

Lichfield City Council and local residents are celebrating an historic victory in a long-running battle to have any area of land at Wordsworth Close in Lichfield declared a Village Green.

In the 1960's the Council bought the former Wyrely and Essington canal which was filled in and turned into public open space, but a small strip of land between the canal site and Wordsworth Close remained in private ownership. The Council maintained both areas together, cutting the grass and planting trees. There was no physical barrier between the council land and private land, and local residents used both areas together as open space.

But part of the private land was then sold at auction and so in September 2009 the City Council submitted a Village Green application to secure the land for recreational use. This was supported by over 60 witness statements from local residents who gave evidence that they had been using the land for "lawful sports and pastimes" for well over 20 years. Fears that the land could be lost to development proved justified when in April this year a developer put in an application to build four detached houses on the land.

The power to register Village Greens rests with Staffordshire County Council, whose Countryside and Rights of Way Panel met on 9 November to consider the City Council's Village Green application, together with objections from the developer. They also considered Counsel's advice which supported the application, and decided that the land should be registered as a Village Green. This permanently secures the residents' rights to use the land for recreation, and so prevents it being built on.

"This has been a long and complex legal battle", said Town Clerk, Peter Young, "and I am delighted that this important piece of open space has at last been preserved for public use." "I would particularly wish to thank the local residents for their strong support and their considerable effort in obtaining the various witness statements and old photographs, which proved that the land had been used for sports and pastimes since the1960's."

The land at Wordsworth Close may be one of the last Village Green's to be registered, as the Government's new "Growth and Infrastructure Bill" currently before Parliament, will make it extremely difficult for any new Village Green to be created in the future. However, the land at Wordsworth Close is secure because the new legislation when passed will only relate to new applications, and the Government has confirmed that all current Village Greens will be strongly protected.