Planning changes to hit countryside

Housing campaigners say proposed changes to the way village green applications are decided weights the planning process unfairly in favour of developers.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill likely to come into effect from summer will remove powers to apply for village green status on land on which a planning application is pending or granted - or on land designated for building in local or neighbourhood plans.

The Government says the existing law has resulted in needless delays to building work that had been granted permission - while village green applications are being considered.

But with several such applications pending in Amber Valley – housing campaigner Sylvia Mason, of Waingroves says the bill flies in the face of Tory led policies on localism and ‘big society’.

She said: “A lot of people aren’t aware that a planning application has gone in.

“That is when you start thinking about trying to protect the land.”

Currently there are six village green applications pendingin Amber Valley.

They include land at Codnor Common, Lockton Avenue in Heanor and the Greenwich playing fields in Ripley - upon which supermarket chain Morrisons are bidding to build a store.

If the bill is passed into law none of these would fit the criteria for a village green application.

But Mrs Mason, who recently spoke out at a village green hearing to protect the Codnor Common land between Waingroves and Codnor, earmarked for a 98 home development, believes it is a cynical Government ploy to aid ‘land-banking’ developers.

She said: “A lot of these developments are on land that’s been owned by developers for years - they’ve been banking it.

“But people don’t know that - and when they put in an application on the land - it’s too late.”

Village green status essentially protects a designated area of land from any future building.

Applicants must prove that the site has been used by the public for at least 20 years without the need for permission.

Leader of Ripley Town Council Cllr Steve Freeborn has been vocal in his support of a village green application on the Greenwich playing fields in Ripley.

He said the planning system will be made yet more ‘inaccessible to ordinary people’, if the reforms are approved.

He said: “Often people only take up these fights when they find out a planning application has already been decided - not beforehand. That’s their right surely.

“It’s tragic that the Government is willing to take away rights that have been enjoyed by people for over a century.”

There are those that support the bill however.

Planning law expert Rebecca Warren of Pinsent Masons, said that last minute illage green applications were one of the “NIMBY (‘not in my backyard’) tools of the trade for impeding development”.

She said last minute applications create delay, “increase the cost of promotion and blight sites.”

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