Residents’ Attempt to Protect Green Space in St Athan Refused by Council
An attempt by residents to protect green space in a Vale of Glamorgan village which has the potential for future housing has been refused.
Hundreds of residents in St Athan said the land at Ringwood Crescent had been used for recreation and sport for years and applied to the council to have it turned into a village green.
The landowners, Annington Developments Ltd, objected to the application, arguing that members of the public already had a right to use the land.
Members of Vale of Glamorgan Council’s public protection licensing committee met to discuss the residents’ application on Tuesday, November 14.
“This is the last green space for [residents],” said Vale of Glmaorgan Council ward member for St Athan, Cllr Stephen Haines, in reference to the Flemingston side of the village.
They are hemmed in by houses to the north. ”
The Parc Fferm Wen development, consisting of more than 200 homes, is located off St Athan Road to the north west of Ringwood Crescent.
Questionnaire responses from 160 residents in St Athan were submitted to the council as evidence showing how the land was currently used for recreational purposes, including dog walking, sports and picnicking.
Cllr Haines added: “160 residents in about a 300 house area is quite a lot. If you allow this site not to be a village green… Annington Homes, which is one of the largest homeowners in the UK, want to build on it.
“That land will go. It will become housing and housing in an area where there is not a shop. The poorest people in the community are going to be hemmed in once again. We have to make sure that we protect the facilities for… people.”
The application by residents argues that the land has been used as a recreational open space since 1938 and for at least the last 20 years. However, the applicants also had to prove that the land was used as of right and not by right.
Use of land as of right means that it is used in secret or by force when that use is not permitted.
Annington Developments argued that use of the land was by right because members of the public were permitted to use it and there were signs on the land which permitted use of the land for recreational purposes.
Eversheds Sutherland solicitor, Stephen Jefferson, was acting on behalf of Annington Developments at the meeting.
Mr Jefferson said: “The evidence makes clear that use of the land has been with the landowner’s permission.”
He also said that taking the matter to an independent enquiry for more evidence to be gathered before a decision was made would be an “unnecessary cost and use of the council’s resources”.
A member of the committee, Cllr William Hennessy, asked the solicitor if Annington Developments intended to build on the land if the application for a village green was refused.
To this, Mr Jefferson admitted that he did not know what the client’s intention for the land was, but he added: “If it did propose to develop that land… obviously that would be subject to a planning application which would be determined on its own merit by the council.”
Vale of Glamorgan Council’s principal lawyer, James Docherty, said officers believed there was enough evidence at hand for them to recommend refusing the application based on whether the use of land was by right or as of right.
He said: “In this instance, officers are fairly confident that this is a fairly clear cut matter.”
Mr Docherty also said that the question of what the landowner intended to do with the land in the future was not relevant in the consideration of the application, and reminded members that an application for a village green was “not there as a vehicle to stop development”.
Another member of the committee, Cllr Michael Morgan, said: “We can’t get sidetracked by the emotion of this. It seems to me quite clear that there is use of this land and it is by right. It doesn’t seem at the moment that there is a threat to remove the land.”
Cllr Ruba Sivagnanam agreed with Cllr Morgan, adding: “I have great sympathy with the residents there… this idea of having [the land] as a village green is an aspirational one.
“However, we have to be guided by the law… if we did accept this and if it did go to the independent enquiry it would be at a significant cost. We all know here that that would be a difficult cost to bear if we could bear it at all.”
Other members of the committee, including Cllr Hennessy, Cllr Gillian Bruce, Cllr Vincent Driscoll and Cllr Chris Franks, voted against the recommendation to refuse the application.
Spotted something? Got a story? Email News@News.Wales