Berkhamsted ‘village green’ claim to come under microscope as homes plan is drawn up

Alan O'Neill
Alan O'Neill

The date has been set for a planning inquiry into whether a school playing field should be registered as a village green to save it from potential development.

The site was originally part of plans by Taylor Wimpey for 180 new homes off Durrants Lane, Berkhamsted.

The firm had agreed with Egerton Rothersay School that it would fund a new and greatly improved playing field nearby, in return for being allowed to build on the land.

But Save Your Berkhamsted Residents Association (SYBRA) says the people who live next door have used the area to walk dogs, picnic and play football for more than 20 years.

Secretary Alan O’Neill says the playing field was only closed to the public as Taylor Wimpey’s plans took shape in the summer of 2010.

He said: “Most people in the area are against building on sports grounds. They can’t get in now, and say it’s not right that it should be closed off to us.

“They have used it for years and therefore it has become their right to use it. The other site requires a half-mile walk to get to.”

Two years ago, SYBRA applied to have the site protected from development by registering it as a village green. The association says it now has 21 letters of support and 39 submissions of evidence to back its village green application.

The Planning Inspectorate’s inquiry into whether the playing field should be registered as a village will begin at 10am on Tuesday, March 25, in Berkhamsted Civic Centre.

The plan will be opposed by Herts County Council, which owns the land, and the school itself.

Council spokesman Simon Hoggett said the playing field does not meet the criteria for the registration of land as a town or village green.

He said: “We are hopeful that our objection will succeed. We will be presenting our arguments at the enquiry.”

Taylor Wimpey held a public consultation last year on plans for 120 new homes on an agricultural field between Shootersway and Coppins Close, next to the playing field.

The firm then said that plans for a further 60 homes had been placed on hold until the outcome of the Planning Inspectorate’s inquiry.

Taylor Wimpey will hold informal meetings with members of SYBRA and Berkhamsted Town Council today.

They will discuss the firm’s revised plans, which will see fewer homes being built, following feedback from the public consultation.

Taylor Wimpey spokesman Joni Ager said: “We will be working with interested parties to confirm the details of our final proposal in the coming weeks.

“This will be followed by the submission of a planning application.

“The outcome of the village green application does not impact upon our residential development plans for the site.”