Lancaster school village green ‘should be celebrated’

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

A Lancaster woman has said the decision to turn a school’s playing fields into a village green should be celebrated.

Lancashire County Council failed in their legal bid to prevent the land 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 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.

Janine Bebbington, who entered the application for registration, has said the ruling from the High Court should be celebrated.

She said: “I am pleased the truth has come out.

“To have Judge Ouseley, the top judge in the land, make a decision on this makes me very pleased.

“The fact that this land will now be protected for the future should be 
celebrated.”

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 a 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.

Lancashire County Council can still appeal the decision if they wish.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We are disappointed by the decision and are currently considering the judgment carefully before reviewing our options.”