Bid to save ‘wild land’

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CAMPAIGNING residents have been going head-to-head with Kirklees Council over greenfield land in Dewsbury.

A public inquiry got under way this week to resolve a row involving people in Chickenley who want to register the ‘fantastic, wild’ site as a village green.

The council wants to build 36 flats on Chickenley Heath and is opposing the application by campaign group Residents Against Greenfield Exploitation (RAGE).

Both sides have this week been giving evidence at a public inquiry at the town hall.

Residential development is part of the council’s affordable homes programme, but RAGE wants a community park and garden. To secure this status, RAGE has to prove that a significant number of people have used the land for sports and pastimes for at least 20 years.

Evidence already handed in claims it is used for activities such as football, cycling, bonfires, picnics and horse riding. But a 22-page objection by Kirklees said ‘only a small minority of individuals’ claimed to use the land. There was not enough evidence of use for sports and pastimes.

RAGE witness Jenny Evans said her house overlooks the field. “I enjoy the feeling of space,” she said. “I take my two-year-old son to the pond to watch the tadpoles.”

Since buying her house in 1998, she had seen activities such as children playing, snowball fights, dog-walking, horses grazing and community bonfires.

“I have used the field as of a right,” said Mrs Evans. “To me it has always been a fantastic, wild piece of land and I hope my son can enjoy it in the same way as he grows older.” Neighbours who had lived in the area since her house was built in 1938 had confirmed its use for recreation.

David Ashwell, a senior design manager with Wates Living Space, worked on early development assessments of the site. He felt the land was overgrown and neglected and unfit for recreation. He saw evidence of fly-tipping and never saw anyone using the area for recreation.

“If someone put in the work it could be used for recreation,” he said. “But I saw it as unused, apart from dog-walking.”

Kirklees Council tractor driver David Jones said he cut grass at the site every two weeks and had never seen anyone using it for recreation.

Similar evidence came from streetscene and housing chargehand Clare Berry and Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing area manager Gail Frudd.

The inquiry, chaired by barrister Alan Evans, was due to end today (Friday). Mr Evans will then make recommendations in a report, but the council will make the eventual decision. “The council will need good reason to depart from my recommendations,” said Mr Evans.