A £50,000 battle to protect a playing field from developers has ended in defeat for Whitby residents – at the highest court in the land.
The Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in the UK, this week settled a seven-year row over the five-acre site.
Supporters of the Helredale Road playing field campaign had hoped the court in London would find in their favour to have the land protected as a “village green.”
But instead it is North Yorkshire County Council, and landowner Scarborough Borough Council, which are celebrating a victory.
It now paves the way for Yorkshire Coast Homes to build 105 affordable homes on the site and across St Peter’s Road as part of a £10m regeneration project.
“It is disappointing, but not totally unexpected because of the history of the previous cases,” said campaigner Mark Nicholson.
“It’s a well-used piece of land by the community and one of the few green spaces we have left.
“We have done everything we possibly could - there’s nothing we could have done any better.”
Wednesday’s ruling centred on a single crucial but complex point - whether locals had been enjoying the use of Helredale playing field “by right” or “as of right” in the eyes of the law.
Before the judgement, campaigners had been hopeful of a last-ditch victory after previous defeats before North Yorkshire County Council, the planning inspectorate, High Court and Court of Appeal.
But it was not to be as the Supreme Court found in favour of North Yorkshire County Council - deflating the hopes of Viv Wright, Christine Barkas and Mark who witnessed the outcome online.
“I am absolutely gutted,” said Christine, a member of Helredale Neighbourhood Council. “My parents have lived in this road for 70 years, my children played in the field, I played in there and my grandchildren did. We have had football matches and a Coronation party on there.”
Once the land is developed, she added, youngsters will face the daunting prospect of crossing the busy A171 to find their nearest playing field and parents will no longer have the security of being able to watch their children at play on the field, which is ringed by residential houses.
The disappointed campaign group, which raised £50,000 for its legal fight through fundraisers over the years and legal aid, now intends to switch its attention to the planning application submitted by Yorkshire Coast Homes.
The developer wants to begin work on “Phase One” of the development as soon as possible.
But Viv Wright, of Helredale Road, who has become something of a legal whizz during the seven year campaign, has vowed to keep the developers and planning authority on its toes.
“I am now looking to make sure the housing, when it is done, is done to the letter of the law,” she said. “I am looking see if we should hold another residents meeting where they will be invited to submit their plans to us again.”
She believes a new planning application should be submitted as the road network has become busier since it was originally approved, due to a number of new developments.
Viv added: “I will have their terms and conditions seared onto my brain and if they break any one of them, I will be on top of them like a ton of bricks.”