Merton Green Action Group


Landmark public inquiry over the status of village green near Caerwent

11:40am Thursday 4th November 2010

The eyes of developers across the country will be focussed on a Monmouthshire village's fight to save open space already being developed for housing.

Members of Merton Green Action Group are gearing up for the public inquiry into their bid to grant village green status to land which residents claim has been used for decades as a village green.

Caerwent Cllr Phillip Murphy said: "I welcome the residents' application and the pending public inquiry.

"One way or another, the future of the land needs to be determined. Every developer in the country will be watching this case with baited breath."

Residents of Merton Green and Ash Tree Road in Caerwent, have been embroiled in the bitter dispute with Monmouthshire County Council and Barratt Homes for over two years, after the council granted Barratts planning permmission to build 145 new homes.

Villagers contend that the land is recreational open space, which was for decades used as a village green by locals.

But now, after tireless campaigning and fundraising by residents, a four day public inquiry is due to begin on November 16 at Caerwent Town Hall. The inquiry comes after an application submitted to MCCĂ•s greens registration authority cited their right to have the land registered as a village green under legislation in England and Wales. Under the laws, last revised in 2006, applicants must prove the site has been freely used for recreational purposes for at least 20 years. It is something, local campaigner, Annmarie Spooner, 51, claims will not prove difficult to determine. She said: "I grew up here and remember playing on this green all through my childhood, as did many other people. "It has been used for recreational purposes for decades. It meant so much to this community and it feels like it has been stolen from us."

If the outcome of the public inquiry is that the application is granted, then all development on the site will halted and the land's former recreational condition would have to be reinstated, meaning huge financial implications for the developers.

Mrs Spooner added: "We are under no illusion that this will be a tough fight but we are ready to see this case right through - even to the High Court.

"Our legal team believe we have a very good chance of succeeding with our application for village green status and if we win, this will be a precedent case."

Barratt's were granted planning permission to build on the land in 2008 and caused further controversy when they moved onto the site in March this year, after the campaigners applied to have the land registered as a village green.