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UPDATE: Battle is over for Town Green campaigners
CAMPAIGNERS have reached the end of the road in their fight to re-instate a Town Green after the bid was turned down by the Supreme Court.
The Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis had their appeal dismissed by the Law Lords today following a hearing at the London court in January.
And the decade-long battle over the land in Weymouth has finally come to an end as chairman of the group Gill Taylor revealed the campaigners will not be able to appeal the decision.
Despite the disappointment, Mrs Taylor declared it was 'a battle worth fighting'.
At the hearing at the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country, the law lords were told that there had been an 'exceptionally long' period of delay between the land being granted the status in 2001 and the landowners applying for the decision to be overturned.
The status was revoked by the High Court in 2010 and this decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2012.
Giving judgement, Lady Hale said that there was 'no evidence to show that significant detriment to others' had occurred as a result of the delay.
The landowner's rights had been 'severely curtailed', she added.
Speaking of the residents' use of the land, Lady Hale said: “It is a right they should never have had.”
Betterment has been granted planning permission to build homes and offices on the land, also known as Curtis Fields, following a planning inquiry held in November.
The plans do not include the area campaigners wanted registered as a Town Green and Betterment chairman Mervyn Stewkesbury has told residents they will still be able to use the land 'until it is required for other purposes'.
He said after the case: “We are highly delighted that after ten years justice has finally been done.
“This land was wrongfully taken from the owners during 2001, but as far as we are concerned there have also been two instances of grave injustice to this company.”
Betterment have been left £1million out of pocket over the course of the three court cases, Mr Stewesbury added.
A protected costs order was placed on the case and campaigners will now have to pay £15,000 to the landowners.
Mr Stewesbury said to the campaigners: “Please do not look upon it that you have lost your Village Green. Think to yourselves you have had the use of the land for more than ten years when you should not have done.”
Mrs Taylor thanked everyone who has donated money to the campaign and the legal team, who worked on a pro bono and no win no fee basis.
She said: “We are obviously disappointed but we are also realistic and you always go into these things not knowing if you will win or lose.
“We've been told there are no grounds on which to appeal so this really is the end of the road.
“We are hoping we can work with Betterment on any open spaces the public may have access to in the future.”
Mrs Taylor added: “If we had not stood up and challenged the application to deregister the Town Green, people's rights would have been lost without any fight.
“It was certainly a battle worth fighting.”
Ruling will be 'green light' for developers
ALASTAIR Wallace, of Public Law Solicitors, who fought the case on behalf of the campaigners, said the ruling would be a 'green light' for developers to challenge Town Green statuses.
As Betterment was not the landowner when the area was granted the status, the outcome could encourage speculative purchases of high value land which is currently protected under Town Green legislation, he added.
Mr Wallace said: “In the end it was public versus private and private has won.
“The campaigners have fought tenaciously and they put up a heroic struggle to keep the land in the public domain.”
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