In 2013 a group of residents supported by Appleby Environment applied to have the field behind the Church Hall (as shown within the hash lines in the map below) registered as a village green / common land. This application had the support of the parish council and our local MP. Although not successful it brought together many villagers to express their use and enjoyment of this part of the village over many years.
As noted in the Village Design Statement, Appleby does not have a conventional village green in the centre of the village but it does have green spaces coming into the village which have footpaths linking older buildings and providing a sense of the countryside coming into the village. These extend to the wider fields surrounding the village and separating it from the main road network.
Under the Commons Act 2006 anyone can apply to have a piece of land registered under the act if they can show that it has been used by a significant number of local people for recreation, without seeking permission, using force or secrecy, for at least 20 years.
If successful the land would be protected from any changes that prevented such continued enjoyment.
By distributing leaflets and going door to door volunteers established the use and importance of this land to local residents.
The field has been used by generations of villagers for walking, playing, pond dipping, blackberry picking etc. Over 100 villagers supported this application by filling in a ‘user’ form or by writing letters. 24 gave evidence under oath at the public hearings (held at the Appleby Inn from 4th to 7th March 2014). More would have done so if we had had been given more witness time.
The inspector then went away to write his report which we received in August 2014. Unfortunately this came out against our claim and this view was confirmed by the County Council committee who were responsible for the final decision (despite support for our claim from our local county councillors).
However, despite being disappointed, the experience was not a negative one. A lot of people came together and shared their experience of using this field – this use was accepted by the Inspector who wrote “On balance the evidence was convincing … that significant numbers of the inhabitants of Appleby Magna have come onto the fields of the application site for recreational activities”. He also accepted that the use had been continuous for the last 20 years (the legal requirement) – and in practice considerably longer, and that in the legal terminology it was ‘use as of right’ (i.e. it was not secretive and the landowner never told people to stop). Further we established that residents did not just stick to the formal footpaths – and the report suggests we could probably get more footpaths approved on the land. Our application only failed on the grounds that the activities did not use the ‘whole of the land’. That is people walked on some parts of the land but not on ‘the land as a whole’. We feel that this is in the nature of the recreational activity of walking (the principal use) as opposed to something like football games.
Current Land Use
Applications have been made for housing on the whole of this site. An application for houses on the portion of the field between Bowley’s Lane and Church St was turned down by a North West Leicestershire District Council Planning Committee in April 2014. The applicant did not appeal. It remains an agricultural field with well used footpaths and other recreational uses continue.
You can view our original application (without the individual support letters),
You can download the Inspector’s Report from here.
You can also read our speech to the County Council meeting which turned down our application.
All the physical documents associated with this campaign have been deposited with the Sir John Moore Foundation for their local history archive. They are available for reference there by arrangement with the Foundation.