Helredale fight may go to the Supreme Court

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Helredale playing fields in Whitby have vowed to fight on to the “bitter end” after their latest legal bid was thwarted.

Helredale Neighbourhood Council (HNC) is now saying it will take the bid to have the playing fields registered as a village green to the House of Lords.

It comes after HNC learned this week that a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice last month to appeal previous decisions denying a bid to save the area of open space had not gone their way.

Viv Wright, secretary of HNC, said: “It went against us. I didn’t know what to expect as it was 50/50.

“I can understand why because the actual question goes a lot deeper than them just handing us a decision.

“We are seeking permission to go to the Supreme Court in the House of Lords.

“We have always said we will fight to the bitter end but also it is a matter of public interest.

“There has got to be some sort of rule so this does not happen again but it will because there is a shortage of land for housing.

“Local authorities will look at what green space can they get rid of and that is a very important factor that has got to be sorted out.”

It is the latest stage in a bitter battle which started five years ago after Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) revealed plans to build homes on the site.

Since then the land has been sold by the council to Yorkshire Coast Homes and planning permission granted for more than 70 properties on that site with another 20 plus being built nearby at St Peter’s Road.

But that development has been halted because of the residents’ legal bid.

The site was originally designated as housing land for the working classes back in 1951 when it was acquired by the then Whitby Urban District Council.

When it passed to SBC it was maintained as a recreation ground and that use carried on between 1987 and 2007 without dispute.

The relevant piece of law falls under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 and applications for village greens must show a significant number of people have indulged in lawful sport or past-times ‘as of right’ (without permission, force or secrecy) for 20 years rather than ‘by right’ which means people were exercising their legal right to do so.

Judges sitting on the Helredale case ruled: “The Field was ‘appropriated for the purpose of public recreation’ by the UDC and its successor the borough council under an express statutory power to provide and thereafter maintain it as a recreation ground.

“Throughout the 20 year period the local inhabitants indulged in lawful sports and past-times on the Field by right and not as of right.”