Neighbour of site set for housing development finds way of stalling builders

A UNIQUE and surprising move by a local resident has delayed building work on a new housing estate in Knaresborough.

Land has been cleared in preparation for four houses to be built on the site of the former Somerley House on Boroughbridge Road and another ten (including seven affordable) off Blind Lane, on land formerly known as The Old Orchard.

However, developers, Linden Homes now have to delay part of the work after North Yorkshire County Council received a claim under the Commons Registration Act 2006 to register the Old Orchard site as a new village green.

The reason for the claim submitted by Elly Inman of Stockwell Place, whose back garden overlooks the Old Orchard is ‘by virtue of its use for leisure pastimes by the local inhabitants for at least 20 years’ - in other words if the land can prove to have been used for leisure purposes for a block of 20 years or more.

Notices have been posted near the site asking for comments to be sent to the Council and for any proof that the land has been used by local people for leisure reasons.

Ms Inman wrote to the Knaresborough Post in March asking for people to contact her. Since then, she has collected a lot of support and forwarded approximately 30 letters to the council.

“I have been in touch with many people who declare they’ve had access and used this site as a children’s play area and for dog walking,” said Ms Inman.

“I’m sure there are more who know far more about the history of the land than I do. Unfortunately, the site has been cleared displacing much of the wildlife and it is now fenced off.”

Councillors commenting this week included Counrty Coun Bill Hoult who said: “This is the first application under the Commons Act 2006 in Knaresborough and officers tell me it is unlikely to be resolved before October this year at the earliest.

“I understand that it is up to the developer to decide whether to cease construction work or go on at his own risk.”

District councillor for the Scriven Park Ward, Ivor Fox said: “Although it may be a little late in the day for a ‘Village Green,’ I fully support the location of a childrens’ play area close to the development which has been requested by many residents. The safety questions on the Blind Lane access especially for children have yet to be resolved and are a major concern.”

Coun Anne Jones added: “I’m aware that an application has been lodged to register land known as The Old Orchard as a Town Green. This will need to follow due process but it is unlikely to be resolved before autumn. During the planning process for the development, I raised the concerns of local residents regarding road safety and traffic calming measures.”

One nearby resident on Boroughbridge Road, Mr Alastair Butler has lived in the town since 2002.

He doesn’t recall the land being used in recent times by locals other than trespassing youngsters, particularly as the plot was overgrown and surrounded by barbed wire.

“I have some photos from 1981 showing the land as a ploughed field, then in 1984 it became long grass and overgrown and another one in 2002 showing shrubby land and long grass. In the last three years or so, somone has cleared part of the land and children have been able to play in there. Nobody has walked dogs or anything there though,” said Mr Butler.

A spokesperson for Linden Homes said: “We were surprised to receive notification in relation to the village green application, which as a result will delay part of site including delivery of the affordable housing units, particularly when planning consent has been granted for development.

“We are unable to comment any further on the detail at this time.”

l The application can be viewed at Knaresborough Library or the NYCC offices at Northallerton. To register your comments, email or write to Chris Stanford, NYCC Commons Registration, Highways North Yorkshire, County Hall, Northallerton DL7 8AD before August 22.