A RESIDENTS’ action group opposing a football club’s development plans told a public inquiry the field should be officially made a village green.
They claim the Old School Field at Haltwhistle, Northumberland, has been in common recreational use for more than the 20 years required by law to confer village green status.
That would block Haltwhistle United’s plans for new changing rooms and a car park on the site.
Battle lines have been drawn with landowners Haltwhistle Town Council and the town’s Social Welfare Centre, who say the field should be upgraded.
Residents in adjacent streets have adopted the village green bid to block the club’s plans.
Under the 2006 Commons Act, the Fairfield Park and Willia Road Neighbourhood Action Group needs to prove that the field has been widely used for other recreation by “a significant number of inhabitants” for more than 20 years.
Yesterday the action group drafted in several of Haltwhistle’s senior citizens to deliver their memories of the field.
Sadie Pape, 75, of Fairhill, Haltwhistle, said: “I have seen cricket played, kites being flown, people playing golf. Children come and set up a goalmouth with their jumpers and play football on it. And I walk my dogs on this land twice a day in all weathers. I see other people on the land most days.”
Brendan Powell, of Fairfield Park, who moved to Haltwhistle from south Wales in 2004 but has in-laws in the town, is leading the action group.
He said: “People have been using this as of right - people used that land for walking dogs etc, and that usage has continued all the way through to the present day.”
Lawyer Nicola Allan, representing the action group, said: “Our case is that the use for lawful sports and pastimes goes back many, many years.
“By 1968 the pattern and frequency of use was well-established and hasn’t materially changed since then.”
A twice-a-year funfair and a separate carnival is also held on the field.
Objectors to the village green status application say they do not accept that the applicant has proved “significant” use of the application site.
Top-level legal advice says residents have had use “as of right” rather than “by right”, they add.
Haltwhistle County Councillor Ian Hutchinson, who is opposing the village green move, told the inquiry: “Take heed of what the longer-standing local people know about the area.”
The objectors, represented by Jeremy Pike, will present their case to the inquiry today. A final decision will be made by Northumberland County Council’s Rights of Way Committee.