Following the success that BNG had in being one of the prominent local voices of opposition that saw the previous Local Plan withdrawn in which the Council had proposed development of the fields around Lye Green for 900 houses, BNG were also briefly successful in getting the land listed as an Asset of Community Value too before that status was cynically withdrawn by the former Council.
Although the Local Plan was withdrawn, the new Buckinghamshire Council are now in the early stages of preparing their next Local Plan and BNG have continued to monitor events and to take action to prevent the land being allocated in any new Local Plan.
One important action that has been taken in late October 2020 was that BNG made applications to the Council for the land to be listed as a Town or Village Green (TVG). BNG were unable to do this previously for legal reasons until the former Local Plan had been withdrawn.
The statutory test for a Village Green status is to demonstrate that “a significant number of local people have used the land for lawful sports and pastimes over the last 20 years”. It is unlawful to interfere or develop a Village Green. This status if granted, will therefore preserve the land and keep it available for the customary public enjoyment that it has provided to the local community. BNG have evidence of between 280-400 people use the land every day for a variety of recreational activities including dog walking, jogging, cycling, walking with friends and family, children playing, picking blackberries etc. BNG now have evidence from 59 different people all of whom have lived nearby for more than 20 years (in fact the average time living locally is over 39 years) confirming the public uses described herein.
This is VERY important because Village Green status would effectively sterilise the land from all future development as it is unlawful to interfere with or drive vehicles upon a Village Green and is therefore considerably more powerful that the ACV status BNG were previously seeking and most importantly will protect the local wildlife and environment from the development threat that has prevailed for many years.
Such Village Green applications are notoriously slow and take time but BNG’s application has recently been formally recognised and BNG have finally been told by the Council that it is their intention to convene a Public Inquiry into BNG’s Village Green applications later in 2022. This Inquiry will be convened by a third-party expert barrister experienced in Village Green matters and BNG intend to be represented by their own retained barrister as it will be necessary for BNG to present our evidence and submit to cross examination by the objectors, who unsurprisingly are the two landowners.
It is already apparent from the landowner objections that were it not for BNG making the aforementioned Village Green application, that the Council would probably already be considering a planning application for several hundred homes on one of the fields that Countryside Plc appear anxious to submit as they have an option over part of the Mash land.
Our barrister, Mathew Dale-Harris of Landmark Chambers, has recently advised BNG that he feels we have “a very good chance of success” with their Village Green application and BNG are therefore now making preparations for this public inquiry. As yet, we do not have a date for the Inquiry and the Council have advised us that there may be some delay as there are a couple of other matters ahead of us and they also need to identify and instruct a suitably qualified expert barrister to convene this non-statutory public inquiry.
BNG anticipate it may be several months before we know when the inquiry will take place, but BNG are choosing to use this time to prepare and most importantly, to raise funds to cover the costs of the legal representation that we feel we must incur to give this application the very best possibility of success.
Therefore please consider making a donation to BNG for what we hope will be our last initiative in this 7 year battle.
As always cheques are welcome or BACS contributions can be made via our BNG website but we have also established a Just Giving page where credit card donations can also be accepted. Unfortunately, our previous ability to use CrowdJustice for crowdfunding has been subject to some revised regulatorily changes that have caused BNG to move to JustGiving. The JustGiving link for BNG is www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bngvillagegreen?utm_term=wqdGWKR74%20%20.
BNG hope this important development can be shared with friends and family via social media and we ask you to consider making a donation to Brown Not Green as we hope the Village Green application gives the community the prospect of some finality in this long running matter.
Members of the Brown Not Green Campaign