ANGRY Baswich residents fighting plans for nearly 100 new homes on one of the area's few remaining green spaces have employed a solicitor to try to have the land declared a village green.
Plans submitted by Stafford and Rural homes could see a total of 97 houses built on the land near Falmouth Avenue, but a determined local action group intend to confront the application with one of their own which would see the land reclassified and effectively protected from future development.
Jonathan Andrews, a resident who chairs the group, said: “The terrain on that land is not fantastic, the accessibility is not so good and the roads are really quite narrow around there.
“So the action group formed with the primary purpose of protecting the green space.
“Someone on the group suggested we apply to have the land classified as village green and an application was put forward to that effect.”
Mr Andrews said Staffordshire County Council saw the application because they owned the land.
“They put in an objection at the 11th hour and then asked for an extension so they could respond formally,” he said. “The applicant then had until March 4 to answer which wasn’t a lot of time so he asked for and got an extension as well and now he has until March 18 to respond.”
Mr Andrews said the group had identified a solicitor with experience in village green applications but there was an expense involved in that.
“He doesn’t come cheap,” said Mr Andrews. “At the moment residents of Falmouth Avenue are paying his fees themselves at a rate of about £450 for a half day.
“If this does progress the costs will escalate and we may have to appeal to the wider Baswich community to help and ask if they want to contribute to the legal costs.”
Mr Andrews said the applicant had prepared a response to the objections lodged by the county council and the solicitor was looking over them.
“It’s a really sticky one because we all know the county council is short of cash and they are looking at every piece of land for development potential, but we just feel this is the wrong piece of land to look at,” he said. “We already have 12,000 vehicles a day on Baswich Lane, if you add in more it’s going to have a massive impact on the infrastructure and the community.
“We just have to hope that the County Council know that we are serious about protecting this land.”
Anyone who does want to get involved with the action group or help contribute towards the costs of engaging the solicitor can get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Environment and Assets on Staffordshire County Council, said the land at Falmouth Avenue, which is owned by the county council, had been earmarked for a housing development in Stafford Borough Council’s Local Plan since 1998 with plans to build 97 homes on site, including a portion of affordable homes for shared ownership, submitted by the borough council in December.
“Stafford is in urgent need of more homes and in particular more affordable housing to meet demand and government targets,” said Councillor Winnington. “Clearly we need to balance that demand against the needs of local people.
“We have listened to local residents and ran two public events about the plans in September last year.
“As a result of the feedback changes were made to the design. Forty per cent of the site will remain green and open space.”
Councillor Winnington confirmed that the county council had submitted a formal objection to the application to have the land classified as a village green.