Inquiry looms over Leeds village green status

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Community organisations and a senior councillor are fighting for three areas of Leeds City Council-owned land to be given village green status.

But the council objects to the proposal and the issue could be heading for a public inquiry likely to cost over £20,000.

Sites registered as village greens have greater protection from development.

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Campaigners want three areas – Butcher Hill playing fields, West Park playing fields and land off Old Farm Drive in West Park – to be registered as town or village greens.

Coun Bernard Atha (Lab, Kirkstall), Spen Hill Residents Association, Moor Grange Action Group, West Park Residents Association, Kirkstall Crusaders, Hawksworth Community Association and the council’s Inner North West Area Committee have submitted the applications.

They have to show that a “significant number of people within a locality have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for at least 20 years and continue to do so at the time of the application.”

The campaigners have put forward a total of 104 witness statement supporting the applications but the council argues that not all the criteria for village green registration have been met and is objecting.

A report to be considered on Thursday by the council’s west plans panel recommends public hearings be held and an inspector appointed who will consider the evidence and report back to the panel.

The applicants have suggested the costs could be avoided if the council dropped its objections and allowed the panel to consider the applications and, if satisfied, recommend approval.

The report says the landowner has declined to accept that approach and adds: “It is considered that in view of complex legal points and the fact the sites are council owned, public hearings should be held in the interests of transparency and to underline the council’s impartiality as registration authority.”

Meanwhile, the council’s east plans panel has agreed that an application to register privately-owned land at Pit Hill, Churwell, as a village green should go to a public hearing.

The application has been submitted by the Save Pit Hill Churwell group and is opposed by the site’s owners.

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