High court preserves Moorside Fields for residents

Moorside Primary School in Lancaster.
Moorside Primary School in Lancaster.

Lancashire County Council has failed in a legal bid to prevent land in Lancaster from being registered as a village green.

Village green status protects land from development and preserves it for recreational use by the locals.

The council, which owns Moorside Fields next to Moorside Primary School, as local education authority, had asked one of the country’s top judges at London’s High Court to quash a Government inspector’s decision allowing registration of part of the site as a village green.

However, Mr Justice Duncan Ouseley said that the inspector had made a “rational” decision when he gave the green light for the registration in September last year. The application for registration was made by local woman Janine Bebbington.

The council had argued that the law requires 20 years of use “as of right” by a significant number of local residents. It claimed that, because administrative boundaries for the area had changed over the 20 year period this condition had not been met.

In addition, its lawyers argued that Ms Bebbington had to demonstrate that the local inhabitants using the land were from throughout the locality. However, the judge rejected both arguments.

He said that the inspector had not erred in law in her decision and effectively found that the Council, as Local Education Authority and the primary school could take the blame for the land qualifying for village green status by their “inaction” in the face of the “known activities of the public over 20 years.”

He added that the lack of action by the council – “no vigorous reaction by the head teacher or the LCC itself” – could be seen as “acquiescence” to public use of the land.