HIXON residents are celebrating the strength of people power after Stafford Borough Council agreed not to sell a public open space.
The land at Hall Farm Close was gifted to Stafford Borough Council in 2004 by developer Kendrick Homes and has become a popular place for village youngsters to play safely.
But another firm, Moreton Developments, asked to buy the open space to create an access road for new homes on land north of Hall Farm Close. It was granted outline planning permission to build 12 homes, but on the condition that no development would begin until the access road had been built.
The Hall Farm Close residents, fearing for the safety of their children if the road went ahead, set up a residents’ association and put in their own request to buy the land.
They also discovered a covenant had been placed on the land, restricting its use to public open space only. Moreton Developments has contacted Kendrick discuss the lifting of the covenant.
But last night Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet resolved not to sell the land, to the delight of the many residents who attended the meeting and applauded the decision. They also brought a banner to the Riverside offices, to highlight their battle to the councillors.
Councillor Alan Perkins, who represents Hixon, spoke on behalf of residents. He said: “I think this is, and has been, a very delicate situation and the fact there is a covanent on the land has given me a lot of concern.
“If somebody donates land to the borough council and imposes a covenant, and it is seen to be easily converted to a saleable land, that is going to deter people from donating land to the borough council.”
Councillor Mike Smith, who chaired the discussion, said: “When it was first debated I thought it was quite a simple thing – I wasn’t aware there was a covenant. Had there not been a covenant I would have said the council has a duty to the taxpayer to sell it for the best price it can.
“Councillor Perkins raised the covenant and we have received quite a lot of correspondence on this. We have seen letters from the developer, letters from the association and a letter from the parish council.
“The borough council has decided to retain the land as a public open space.
“I have one thing to say to the developer, who has planning permission subject to proper access. I suppose they could get access if they were to offer something that could be of interest to the people who have the barn on the farm.
“If they were to sell it they could get in through that route. I put that out as something that could happen in the future.”
Speaking after the meeting Nigel Baxter, 56, chairman of the Hall Farm Close Residents’ Association, said: “It is fantastic and it is well overdue.”
Fellow resident Steve Cartwright, 69, added: “We felt that if this open space was sold the floodgates would open around the borough. Hopefully there will be a knock-on effect from this for other residents’ groups under siege from developers.”