In 2013 a group of residents supported by Appleby Environment applied to have the field behind the Church Hall registered as a village green / common land. This application had the support of the parish council and our local MP.
This 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 the experience was not completely negative. 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.
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.