Bids to protect green land from development fail

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By Eleanor Davis

Legal loophole allows Surrey County Council to continue to pursue plans to sell off green space in Addlestone and Ottershaw after village green status bids fail

 

 Concerned residents at the Murray House Play Area, Ottershaw

Two bids to protect green land from the threat of development have failed after Surrey County Council invoked a legal loop hole.

Village green status for Ongar Hill Brick Field off Marley Close, in Addlestone, and Murray House play area, at Palmer Crescent, Ottershaw, were both rejected by the county’s planning and regulatory committee on Tuesday.

The applicants had to prove that a significant number of inhabitants have used the land for recreational activities for at least 20 years.

Those using the land must have acted ‘as if they had the right’, while using the land, according to Joanna Mortimer, from the county’s legal services.

In both cases, the on-going use of land was already ‘by right’ and therefore did not meet all the requirements of the Commons Act of 2006.

The application to protect Ongar Hill Brick Field as a village green was submitted by Joanna Reilly in October 2012 and was supported by 42 letters.

It was opposed by Runnymede Borough Council as the freeholders and a public inquiry was held, after which an inspector recommended that the application be rejected.

Murray House play area fell to a similar fate after an application was submitted in November 2012, again after an objection by Runnymede.

In July, Paul Turrell, chief executive of the borough council, told the Herald & News that around £30,000 was being spent on legal representation at the two hearings.

“Once they build on it, it’s gone”

Speaking after the decision on Tuesday, Joanna Reilly, of Marley Close, said residents had been hopeful and would not give up protecting the area from development.

“It’s some sort of legal loophole. It’s extremely disappointing,” said Mrs Reilly.

“We will have to see what the council does next. They’re going to put houses on it.

“Even though that status has been turned down, we intend to keep fighting to save that land. We won’t give up.”

Mrs Reilly said there were concerns over the number of developments in Row Town and the sale of single houses being replaced with multiple homes.

“It’s just a little park surrounded by dense housing,” she said.

“We are trying to save it for the kids.”

“We are willing to fight but we do not have unlimited funds – they have taxpayer’s money.

“There will be ways that we can object to the planning but we hope it doesn’t go that far.

“We hope the council will think about the decision to sell it, once they build on it, that’s it, it’s gone.”