Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Memorandum submitted by Dr. P. Gardner (GIB 51)

I am a Morton resident and I was involved in the campaign to get the Field at Morton registered as a town or village green

Introduction/Summary

Unknown to residents of Morton, Carlisle, land they had used for sports and pastimes for over forty years had been transferred to a housing association. Only when they realised that housing association was planning to build on the land did they discover the association now owned the land, and that they, the residents, could lose ‘their’ leisure area for ever. To save the land, they campaigned to have it registered as a Town or Village Green. After much work and a public inquiry, they were successful. It is suggested that they would not have been successful if they had had to confront Clause 13 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

The Field, Morton Carlisle

1. Morton is a housing estate to the west of Carlisle. Most properties on the estate were built in the 1960s. However, a piece of land at Morton, which subsequently became known as the Field, was not built on, though it had properties built all round it. Carlisle City Council put goal posts and some trees on the Field, and for the last forty years and more it has been used for sports and legal pastimes.

2. In 2005 Morton residents were surprised to discover that Carlisle Housing Association in conjunction with the building firm, Lovells, had submitted a planning application to build on the Field. They were surprised because the Field was designated a Primary Leisure Area and because they believed, quite wrongly as it turned out, that the Field’s deeds or background meant it could never be built on.

3. Residents eventually discovered that, with the approval of the Council’s Housing Consultative Group, ownership of the Field had been transferred from the City Council to Carlisle Housing Association in 2002. Two notices dealing with this and other transfers appeared in the local paper at the time, but did not talk of the Field or the sports field behind or land behind Westrigg Road, these being other ways of referring to the land in question. I have since read these notices and I contend that unless you were ‘in the know’, you would not be able to discern what these notices were about. Furthermore, councillors did not bring the issue of the transfer of the Field to the attention of Morton’s Tenants and Residents Association, which met and still meets monthly.

4. In 2005 many Morton residents campaigned against planning permission being granted to Carlisle Housing Association and in November 2005 that Association was denied planning permission by Carlisle’s City Council to build on the Field.

5. Fearful of what our Housing Association, the owners of the Field, might try in the future, it was thought that an attempt should be made to get the Field registered as a village green, thus saving a valuable and much used asset for generations of Morton residents. So, in February 2006, under Section 13 of the Commons Registration Act, 1965, we applied to have the Field registered as a town or village green.

6. In September 2007 a public inquiry was held into the registration of the Field, chaired by Mr. Vivian Chapman, QC. The Objector in the inquiry was Carlisle Housing Association. Mr Chapman’s Report, dated 27th October 2007, recommended "that the registration authority should register the whole Field as a new green".

7. On 20th November 2007 the Development Control and Regulation Committee of Cumbria Council accepted the report of Mr. Vivian Chapman, QC, and the Field was subsequently registered as Town or Village Green, VG 137. It has since been named Isobel’s Green after Isobel Beattie, a campaigner to save the Field, who sadly passed away during the campaign.

8. That campaign was in no way vexatious. It was concerned to preserve a much used primary leisure area in a district where there is a shortage of such areas. And, importantly, it was only when it was under threat from developers that Morton residents realised they could lose it, a situation which, I gather, is quite common. In fact, in our case, it was some three years after it had been transferred to a housing association that we realised it had been transferred and so was not safe.

9. I believe that Clause 13 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill would thwart the very measures we took to save our Field. If that is so, I would humbly suggest that Clause 13 needs reconsidering.

November 2012

Prepared 1st December 2012