Blow in battle for green space

PUBLISHED: 12:11 14 September 2006 | UPDATED: 10:54 06 May 2010

CAMPAIGNERS petitioning to stop residential development on a piece of land have been dealt a massive blow but are determined to continue the fight. The land off Yeomanry Drive, Clothall Common, Baldock, is surplus to the requirements of North Herts Distri

CAMPAIGNERS petitioning to stop residential development on a piece of land have been dealt a massive blow but are determined to continue the fight.

The land off Yeomanry Drive, Clothall Common, Baldock, is surplus to the requirements of North Herts District Council and its Cabinet met on Tuesday and decided to sell the land.

The decision was made despite persistent opposition from campaign group SOGS (Save Our Green Space) and a recommendation from the council's own Baldock area committee to keep the land as an open space.

Cathy Watts, an active member of SOGS, said: "Obviously we are disappointed that they don't want to go ahead with keeping the land as a green space.

"They would rather have the money and it won't be spent in Baldock.

"But we are still intending to carry on.

"We are going to an inquiry now in a bid to turn the land into a village green."

The field has been left green for more than 20 years which gives it the legal requirement for village green status.

If granted this status, the land will be afforded legal protection and can never be built on.

However, according to the council, the site off Yeomanry Drive was formally identified for housing in 1984.

The sale of the land stands to make in the region of £2 million and this sum has already been earmarked for council expenditure.

Failure to dispose of this asset means cuts in council spending must be made unless alternative funding sources are found - this could include an increase in council tax.

An estimated £10,000 of tax payers' money will be spent on the council's legal representation at the inquiry but Cllr Michael Weeks believes this is necessary in order to save the £2m of taxpayers' money.

He said: "When you consider what's at stake, a £2m asset, then it's worth it. In the context of this situation I think it's reasonable. I know the land because I lived there for 12 years and the grass was often two feet high.

"I know it's not particularly used for amenity use so I think that's been exaggerated.

"The extent of green places in that area is unbelievable anyway.

"I don't know of another comparable area with that amount of green in that amount of space."

But Cllr Marilyn Kirkland is backing SOGS.

She said: "The outcome of Tuesday's meeting is very disappointing for the residents and Cabinet have just ignored the wishes of the people.

"When people talk about it so dispassionately, it's disappointing.

"SOGS have worked very hard but there is still hope."

Mrs Watts said: "The fight's not over yet. Until every avenue is explored we won't stop because we really believe it should be used by the community as a big open space."

The date for the inquiry is yet to be finalised.

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