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Town Green campaigners set for final battle
A DECADES’ long battle over an area of greenery in Weymouth is set to reach its conclusion this week.
A campaign group and landowners have been fighting to decide whether land at Markham and Little Francis should be given legal protection from development and the case will be heard at the Supreme Court in London on Wednesday.
The area, also known as Curtis Fields, was previously registered as a Town Green, but owners Betterment Properties applied to de-register the land in 2005.
The status, originally granted in 2001 before Betterment bought the land, was revoked by the High Court in 2010 and has been subject to an ongoing court battle ever since.
Betterment has applied for planning permission to develop the site and the outcome of an inquiry to decide whether to allow this is expected later this month.
The developers do not plan to build on the area that campaigners are fighting to protect, but have fought the status because it restricts development.
The case is scheduled to be heard by President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger, along with Lord Sumption, Lord Reed, Lord Toulson and Lord Hodge.
It is due to last one day and will be heard with another case from Huddersfield to decide a similar issue.
The court will decide the length of time a landowner should have to appeal once a piece of land has been registered as a Town Green.
Campaign group chairman Gill Taylor said the battle has, at times, been ‘exhausting’.
She said it is unlikely the group will appeal to the European Court if they lose their case on Wednesday, due to spiralling costs.
Mrs Taylor added: “We’ve done what we can, and we will be there on the day to see it through.”
Conservation group the Open Spaces Society is supporting the Weymouth campaigners.
Case officer Nicola Hodgson said: “We are supporting the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis and have contributed to its fighting fund.
“If left unchallenged this case poses a threat to the many Greens which were registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 and we would lose this lovely green space at Weymouth.”
If the campaigners are successful, the case will define future rulings on Town and Village Greens across the country.
Since 2008, the public, businesses and groups such as the Open Spaces Society have donated an estimated £100,000 to the cause.
Solicitors and barristers are working on the case under pro bono and no win no fee arrangements.
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