The community’s bid to designate land as a ‘green village’ appears doomed

A request to designate a parcel of land as a new “green village” has been recommended for refusal.

The claim related to an area of ​​land known as ‘field’ or ‘canalside’ near Hall Lane, Ascot Road and Newbury Road in Little Lever, Bolton.

About 100 residents of the Little Lever Racecourse estate have applied for the land to be registered as a new town or village green, which would give the area greater protection and access rights.

The application was made under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006, which allows anyone to apply for the registration of land as a village green where it can be shown that “a significant number inhabitants of any locality or district have engaged in sports and pastimes on earth as of right for a period of at least 20 years”.

Following the request, a two-day public inquiry was held in Bolton last month.

The question centered on whether the land had been used for sports or other recreational pastimes over a 20-year period

The application was supported by 100 local residents who filled out forms detailing their use of the site over a period of more than 20 years.

Three witnesses testified at the inquest in support of the application.

The application site is owned by Robert Graham Trustees Limited who objected to the application on the grounds that the registration requirements had not been met.

Their legal representative argued that the plaintiffs had not identified an eligible area or established the use of the land for lawful recreational purposes during the
relevant period of 20 years.

They claimed that any use of the site had been “as of right” and not “as of right”.

The inquest report, written by Mr Martin Carter, who oversaw the hearing, says there are a number of well-worn footpaths at the site and a bench has been placed on land just outside outside the application site, next to the nearby canal.

He said: “During my site visit, which obviously took place after the application was filed, I found that the trails were well worn and appeared to be well used.

“There were numerous footprints and paw prints observable in the muddy conditions during my visit.

“During my visit of about 45 minutes, I saw a man walking a dog along the trails.

“I keep in mind that it was a cold, dull and wet January day when I visited.”

Mr Carter said the presence of signs was a critical issue in determining this application.

He said that near the entrance to Newbury Road there is a sign that reads: “Private land, no public rights of way. Individuals may use at their own risk –
permissive trails only.

Mr Carter said that although he had heard evidence of community bonfires and model aircraft flying in the field from witnesses, “many recreational activities
to which they refer took place only before the year 2000”.

He said: “I find that the community bonfires and model thefts took place before the start of the 20-year period.

“I find that the use of the site away from the trails was very incidental to the use of the trails themselves and insufficient to cause a reasonable and observant owner to conclude that recreational rights were claimed on the site by the local population.

“The application should fail based on this.”

Bolton Council’s Licensing and Environmental Regulation Committee will meet on March 9 to consider the inquiry report and decide on the application for village green status.