A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court has paved the way for a £10 million development which will help ease the chronic shortage of affordable housing in Whitby.
Five law lords spent nearly six weeks deliberating the test case which was submitted by a group of residents in a last ditch appeal to protect the playing field at Helredale Road from developers.
But in the end they sided with North Yorkshire County Council – who had refused to grant the playing field “village green” status - on a crucial but complex point of legal interpretation at the heart of the case.
The success or failure of the residents hinged on the question of whether locals have been enjoying use of the land, over a 20 year period, “by right” or “as of right.”
If it had been held that the land had been used “as of right” and without express permission that would have meant it could have been considered for village green status.
However, in the main judgment of the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, Lord Neuberger, the country’s most senior judge and President of the Supreme Court, ruled that it had been used “by right”.
Therefore it could not be considered for village green status as that use had been “permitted by the owners.”
Now, Yorkshire Coast Homes (YCH) is aiming to begin “Phase One” of its ambitious Helredale and St Peter’s Road building and regeneration project as soon as possible.
“Work will include the demolition and replacement of outdated flats on St Peter’s Road and wider environmental improvements.
It hopes to have completed the 105 homes before March 2018, and is promising Whitby families will be given priority for buying new homes.
Shaun Tymon, YHA’s chief executive, said the new development will help meet the desperate need of residents to find affordable housing.
He said: “Upwards of 26 people were bidding for each of the 145 Yorkshire Coast Homes properties that became available over the last 12 months. “I think that goes a long way to underlining the desperate need for more affordable homes across our Borough and I’m happy that the Law Lords’ decision will allow us to start building some of them.”
Another person supporting the news is 35-year-old Kate Trueman, who lives on St Peter’s Road with her partner and two children.
She said: “We need affordable housing for local people in Whitby. Private rents are very expensive, a modest three bedroom house would cost around £600 to £650. Not many local people can afford that.”