Victory for residents as village green application is approved for Barnard Castle's Bede Kirk
By Lyndsay Oxley - Reporter
RESIDENTS have won their fight to stop housing being built on a cherished green space in Barnard Castle after an application to register it as a village green was approved.
However, Durham Police's crime commissioner says he is now considering a legal challenge.
Durham County Council’s Highways Committee met this morning at St Mary’s Parish Hall, in Barnard Castle, to decide whether land at Bede Kirk should be officially designated as a green.
The area, which includes the former police station, was earmarked for sale by Durham Police who were hoping to sell it off for housing.
In an attempt to save the land, Barnard Castle Town Council applied to have it listed as a village green.
The application was submitted with evidence from 18 people showing that the area has been used for leisure and recreation purposes for the past 20 years.
Despite it being recommended for refusal by county officials, the county’s highways committee granted the special status.
The site is now protected from any future development under UK law.
No one from Durham Police attended the meeting.
Police had earlier said the decision boiled down between "cops or a copse", claiming the money would fund local policing. However, residents branded it a "development gold rush", saying too many green spaces in town were being built on. They also pointed to the site's rich Anglo-Saxon history. Resident and former archaeologist Sophie Ebeling said human bones had been recently found on the site.
Commenting on the decision, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said “I am disappointed in the outcome of this hearing. I have a duty to make best use of the assets available to me. This setback will cost the better part of one third of this year’s increase in precept. This is a lot of money to make up within our capital budget.
“From the information available at the moment, it appears to me that the site did not fully meet the tests of having regular leisure usage by a significant number of local people for a period of at least twenty years. I am taking legal advice on the next steps and strongly considering a legal challenge.
“At the same time I will be considering alternative options for the site of the former Police station building, which is next to the land that was under consideration today”.
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