News Update – 7 October 2016
Knowle Society is celebrating a major success in the preservation of TWO green open spaces through their registration as village greens. The two areas border Knowle Park, thereby extending the area of the park for use by local people. Unfortunately, we were not successful in regard to one other area, so this has been lost as a green space open to the public.
News Update – 2 April 2016
This update was also emailed on 2nd April 2016 to all members for whom the Society holds email addresses.
VILLAGE GREENS PROJECT – MIXED SUCCESS
Rather sooner than expected, we have received the Inspector’s reports on our applications to register the three open spaces as Village Greens. These contain his view of the cases we made and his recommendations to the Council and whether or not they should register each of them as a Village Green. Unfortunately the results are somewhat mixed.
For Area D, the land between Starbold Crescent and the park, he has recommended that the Council SHOULD REGISTER the whole of that area as a Village Green, which is a great result.
We have a similarly good result for the rear part of Area C, between the Nature Reserve and the wall of Arrow Close and Austrey Close, with a recommendation that the Council SHOULD REGISTER that area as a Village Green. We withdrew our application to register the part that is included in the Nature Reserve as that is already open to the public, so cannot be registered. However its status as a Nature Reserve already gives it good protection as an open green space.
Unfortunately he has recommended that the Council SHOULD NOT REGISTER Area A, that from the Wychwood roundabout to the rear of Longdon Road. This is a great disappointment, as it is the largest area and was supported by the greatest number of people. His conclusion was based on the Council having maintained the land for many years. The circumstances leading up to this were the main points of disagreement between ourselves and the owners of the land. They were saying that the Council must have had an agreement with a former owner of the land to maintain the land as open public space until the by-pass was built. There was no actual proof of such an agreement, but we couldn’t prove that there wasn’t an agreement – rather difficult to do. The owners were also saying that the existence of by-laws, which they said applied to the land, supported their view. We made a case that they didn’t apply to this piece of land. In the end the Inspector came down on the side of the owners. This meant that, because the public had, in effect, been given permission to use the land, it is not possible to register it as a Green. Rather complicated – in fact very complicated!
It was particularly disappointing to lose on a legal nicety, especially as the Inspector agreed that we had proved every other point that we needed to.
I must emphasise that this is not the end of the process for ANY of the areas. The reports have gone to the Council and they have to assess them before making the final decision, which does NOT have to be as the Inspector recommended, but is very likely to be. This does mean that we might have a slight opportunity to make a case that the Inspector was mistaken in the approach he used to make his decision on Area A. We will be taking legal advice about this and giving it further consideration.
My apologies for such a long note, but we felt that we needed to explain the situation in some detail. Thank you, everyone who helped in any way. Let’s not forget that we have fought a good fight and should win two out of three battles.
News Update – 28 February 2016
As I mentioned in the January 2016 Newsletter, a Public Hearing was to be held into our applications for registration of three green spaces as ‘Village Greens’. In the event, the Council withdrew its objection to Registration of Areas C & D – those alongside the Park. The Inspector therefore decided that a Public Hearing into those Areas was not necessary and he would decide on them based on the written evidence. I don’t know whether this was a good thing or not, we shall have to see!
The Hearing into Area A began on 1st Feb as planned, with the Inspector indicating that he hoped it would not take all week. We were to present our evidence first, assisted by our barrister, Ned Westaway. The Objectors were mainly Wallace Properties Ltd, the owner of the land, assisted by a QC, Mr Douglas Edwards. It was far too expensive for us to engage a QC, but our barrister did us proud. A good number of users of the land had written statements expanding on their use of the land and being willing to appear at the Hearing to give oral evidence. We did not need all of them, so submitted a selection as written evidence and eighteen people eventually gave oral evidence. The Objector’s QC tested their evidence and all did well.
After we had finished, on the second day, there was a conference between the lawyers, so the Inspector and representatives of both sides set off for a walk around Area A, so the Inspector could be clear about the evidence we had given. When we returned, the lawyers had agreed that even more research was required into an aspect that had come up in the oral evidence. This related to the fact that the Council had been maintaining the land for as long as anyone knew. As a result the Hearing was adjourned until the 19th, so both parties could try and find evidence of why this was being done. In the event, no conclusive evidence was found, so the Inspector will have to weigh the evidence on the balance of probabilities.
A similar situation arose over whether or not Council byelaws applying to ‘Open Spaces’ applied to Area A. Again there was a disagreement between the parties. The objectors were saying that they did, as there was an area included as ‘Purnells Brook Open Space’, which must be Area A. We said that it actually applied to the area alongside Hillmorton Rd, where Purnells Brook rises.
The effect of each of these aspects would be that Registration could not take place – IF the Objectors were correct. If we were correct, we’d be OK.
At the end of the proceedings, it wasn’t clear which way the Inspector was leaning. He was very good at being balanced and ensuring both parties were able to present all their evidence. We shall have to wait for his report into all three Areas. This will be sent to the Council and will give his view as to whether we have produced a good enough case for Registration of one or more of the Areas. The Council will make the formal decision, as they have the legal powers needed.
I must thank everyone involved in this project from the very beginning in 2011, whatever their involvement. Without your help we would certainly have failed in preserving these Open Spaces for public enjoyment.
News Update – 26 October 2015
The final stages in registering three green spaces on the old by-pass route are approaching fast.
The next big step is the Public Hearing. It will be held at Solihull Moors Football Club from 1 – 5 February 2016. Supporting statements are still needed. Contact
News Update – 03 April 2015
The end is in sight!
Things are gradually moving towards the final climax. We have been contacted by the Council to say that it is hoping to hold the public hearing into our applications some time before the end of July, if it can be arranged. This means that we have to get everything ready to present to the hearing as soon as we can.
We have instructed our solicitor to find us an experienced barrister to represent us at the hearing [at a rate that we can afford!]. We await the results of his search. While we do have a significant sum of money put aside to pay for this, there will be other expenses, so we are continuing to appeal for donations. We are also holding a fund raising event on June 12th – a fun night of fluffy pig racing. There will be the opportunity to ‘buy’ a pig as well as stake a modest amount of money on the result of each race. We will provide a supper of a hot pork roll and extras.
In the meantime we need everyone who completed a form describing their use of one or more of the three areas of land to now write a statement giving the same information, so it can be submitted to the hearing. If I haven’t already contacted you, please get in touch with Leighton Jones and he will provide a guidance note and a copy of your form.
News Update – 02 June 2014
Since the last update in March we have been waiting patiently for the Council to decide what to do about our applications. We are still waiting. The wheels of legal departments obviously grind exceeding slowly as well as (we hope) finely. The latest information we have is that they are aiming at submitting a report to the Council’s Planning Committee at the July 2014 meeting. We are assuming that this will recommend that a public hearing should take place and that it will be accepted.
It is possible that the hearing will take place soon after, so we need to get moving and prepare ourselves. We have two things to achieve before the hearing:-
- Prepare and provide individual written statements from a range of people who can attend the hearing and tell it how and when they used each of the areas of land. We will be approaching many of those who submitted the forms last year and asking if they would go the extra stage.
Boost our finances. As you’ll know, lawyers’ fees are not cheap and our funds are not limitless. We are therefore asking anyone who can do so, to make a donation now (small or large, they all help) towards the Society’s funds. These will be applied to this project. If there is an excess it will be devoted to the other objectives of the Society. If you prefer to donate by cheque, please send your cheque made payable to “The Knowle Society” addressed to: Dr. David Watson – The Knowle Society – 49 Wychwood Avenue, Knowle, Solihull B93 9DL and stating that this is for the Village Greens appeal. Alternatively contact him at: treasurer@knowlesociety. org.uk or phone 01564 732342.
If you are able to Gift Aid your donation we can reclaim a valuable extra 25% from HM Revenue & Customs. The website route includes a Gift Aid facility, if you wish to pay by cheque please state that you wish to Gift Aid it and that you are able to do so. Your name and address are also required.
- Boost our finances. As you’ll know, lawyers’ fees are not cheap and our funds are not limitless.
Further updates will be on this site and also via Twitter and Facebook. See top right to sign up for these.
News Update – 03 March 2014
Slow progress has been made over the past few months as we wait for the Council to decide how it will determine the applications. We received initial comments from the Council Officer that there were concerns that the number of users was low and didn’t represent people from all over the village. He also said that the Council was going to ‘submit a report to the Planning Committee … for consideration’. Our solicitor responded to these points very robustly and indicated that a public hearing would be the only sensible way of determining the application for Area ‘A’. The Officer has gone back to think again. We would be happy if the Council decided to approve Areas ‘C’ & ‘D’ without sending them to the public hearing but it may decide to deal with all three together.
In order to respond to the concerns, we had another go at getting more users to complete forms, thanks to the efforts of a couple of members. As a result we were able to make in January additional submissions of:-
Area ‘A’ – 46 forms from 49 people making a total of 241;
Area ‘C’ – 20 forms from 21 people making a total of 186;
Area ‘D’ – 12 forms from 13 people making a total of 154.
In addition to the funding from our reserves we have launched an appeal for donations. This will give members and non-members the opportunity to contribute to the success of this project. You can donate through this website or by cheque to the Treasurer. If you prefer to donate by cheque, please send your cheque made payable to “The Knowle Society” addressed to: Dr. David Watson – The Knowle Society – 49 Wychwood Avenue, Knowle, Solihull B93 9DL or contact him at: treasurer@knowlesociety. org.uk or phone 01564 732342.
If you are able to Gift Aid your donation it will add a significant sum to the amount. The website route includes a Gift Aid facility, if you wish to pay by cheque please state that you wish to Gift Aid it and that you are able to do so. Your name and address are also required.
Any surplus will be devoted to the other objectives of the Society.
News Update – 21 February 2014
The Council has postponed its plan to put the applications before the Council Planning Committee for its comments, following our solicitor’s letter, which indicated that a public hearing would be the only sensible way of determining the application for Area ‘A’. We would be happy if the Council decided to approve Areas ‘C’ & ‘D’ without sending them to the public hearing but it may decide to deal with all three together.
If/when a public hearing is held we will have to instruct a barrister to put our case. This will not be cheap! The Trustees believe we should set a limit on the amount of money that could come from our resources but we will also be launching an appeal for donations. This will give non-members the opportunity to contribute.
News Update – 17 December 2013
The Village Greens project continues on course. It looks as if the areas bordering the park should go through OK, but no guarantees yet. Legal advice on the third area (Wychwood roundabout to the rear of Longdon Road) is that we have a very good chance, so we need to do more work on that. We need people who have used it to write a statement and perhaps give evidence at the hearing. If this is you, please get in touch.
News Update – 13 November 2013
- The applications were submitted in April;
- After study by the Council, which showed that the applications were valid, the owners were notified and public notices posted on or near the sites and on the Council’s website as well as in the Solihull News
- Responses were received by the Council on each of the Areas applied for:-
Area ‘A’ – Wychwood roundabout to the rear of Longdon Rd
Three objections were received:-
- One from neighbours whose objection is largely based on the risk of increased nuisance;
- One from the department of the Council on the basis that, as it has been maintaining the land, the owners might hold it liable for allowing free access;
- One from the Land owners, Wallace Properties limited. This is based on several factors and includes reference to legal cases. This will need considerable study to rebut their arguments and we might need to instruct solicitors, which will of course cost!
Areas ‘C’ and ‘D’ – both adjoining Knowle Park
Part of each of these areas is owned by the Council, the remainder of each area is now owned by Taylor Wimpey, which has confirmed that it is not formally objecting to the applications.
The Council has repeated its objection to Area ‘A’ for each of these areas.
While the process needs to run its course, which will probably mean a public hearing of the cases, I am hopeful that Areas ‘C’ & ‘D’ will go through OK. Area ‘A’ will need to be hard fought. The process will no doubt take quite some time yet.
News Update – 8 August 2013
The current position on all three applications is that the Council has notified all the owners of the land concerned of the receipt of the relevant application. The owners have been asked whether they intend to dispute the claim concerned, whether they intend to submit evidence in rebuttal and, if so, when that evidence is likely to be forthcoming. Reminders about the initial notification letter have also been sent.
At the beginning of July solicitors for the owner of Area A (that from the Wychwood roundabout to the rear of Longdon Road) asked for and have been given a copy of all the evidence submitted in support of that application.
When the attitude of the owners of the various areas of land concerned has been notified to the Council, it will be in a better position to decide how best to consider how to deal with each application. It seems likely that, if there is a challenge to any one application, an inquiry of some sort to determine the issues relating to that particular area is likely to be necessary. It is thus possible that the three applications are each dealt with in a different way and to a different timescale.
News Update – 1 June 2013
Following the initial submission of the applications on 18 April, we have now submitted nearly 100 additional supporting statements for the Village Green applications. The total number of statements is now up to 498. There are 192 for Area A, 165 for Area C and 141 for Area D. We await a response from the Council when it has had a chance to assess the applications.
News Update – 18 April 2013
Applications for the registration of all three sites as Village Greens were submitted to Solihull MBC on 17 April 2013. They were supported by a total of over 400 statements recording use of the land in ways that justify them being village greens. We now wait for a response from the Council. Please keep the forms coming in, all the relevant ones will be submitted in another batch in a few weeks time to further strengthen our claims.
What Next? Assessment by Leighton Jones, Chairman, The Knowle Society – 18 April 2013
Don’t expect a speedy conclusion to the process. Having reviewed the submissions the Council then has to notify the landowners and allow them time to respond. Any response will have to be assessed. It is possible there might be some discussions between the landowners, ourselves and the Council that might avoid a legal battle. It is likely that the Council will feel it necessary to engage an outside expert to hold a public hearing before it is in a position to make the final decision. My best estimate of the time it’ll take – 18 months; but don’t even count on that. In the meantime please continue to use the land as you have, to show that we mean business!