Final wait for verdict on green

FINAL pleas were made during a hearing at St Mary s Church in Baldock to discuss a village green application. The piece of land off Yeomanry Drive, Clothall Common, owned by North Herts District Council, is being fought for by campaign group SOGS (Save Ou

FINAL pleas were made during a hearing at St Mary's Church in Baldock to discuss a village green application.

The piece of land off Yeomanry Drive, Clothall Common, owned by North Herts District Council, is being fought for by campaign group SOGS (Save Our Green Space) after the council proposed to sell it.

The council and the group came head to head during the hearing that went on for five days. Barrister Geoffrey Holland argued SOGS's case while the barrister for NHDC, Richard Ground, tried to establish whether the land was originally fenced off, an important factor in the case.

Archaeologists were called in to examine the site, but they were unable to produce information as to whether the land was fenced off in 1983 when Hartsfield School opened.


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Peter Petchey, an authority on village greens, acting as an inspector, presided over the investigation. He is now considering his verdict.

Paula Farrant, an active campaigner and organiser for SOGS, said: "Hopefully the inspector will believe us but it's all down to him now."

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Cllr Marilyn Kirkland said: "It is good that it's going to be an impartial person that decides as the issue is a very emotive one."

The village green issue has been going on since 2003. Proceeds from the sale of the land, estimated to be worth around £2 million, would be used to cover council expenditure.

The funds would go towards financing Baldock town centre projects. If the land is not sold, the council's portfolio holder for finance Cllr Terry Hone has warned there would have to be a cut in services which would affect local groups and residents.

The land was formally identified for housing use in 1984, says NHDC. However, due to the site being unused for this purpose for more than 20 years, it meets the legal requirement for village green status.

If SOGS is successful the land will receive legal protection and can never be built on.

Paula Farrant believes it is an important community issue. She said: "If you are going to build a lot of homes in between the school and the road there is going to be a lot of confusion when parents come to pick their kids up. It will be a nightmare."

She added: "When people bought houses in the area they were told by solicitors that the land would not be built on."

Cllr Andrew Young said: "I understand the issue from both sides, but from a North Herts District Council point of view and from a fair point of view I hope that the findings are what we believe - that it has always been building land.

"While I understand that the residents want it kept as a village green I hope, from a taxpayer's point of view and as part of the council, that the decision will be the right one."

SOGS is appealing to anybody who has photos that show the land fenced off in 1983 to ring Paula on 01462 641632.

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