The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, has objected to the plan to swap part of Amble Braid village green for ‘a similar-sized but inferior area’ to the south.
The society helped local people to register the land as a village green in 2009. Then it was under threat of a supermarket on the adjoining land. As a village green, the land is protected from development and local people have rights of recreation there.
As previously reported by the Gazette, Northumberland County Council has applied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to remove the special status from a section of land at the popular recreation space. The purpose is to enable car parking on that stretch ‘at times of peak demand’, to help alleviate some of the town’s chronic parking problems.
The land in question is open grassland in the centre of The Braid, adjacent to the access road to the Marina and public footpath to the town centre. In return, and as part of the proposal, another piece of land – open grassland at the south side of The Braid, north of The Gut and adjacent to the area currently designated as village green – would be registered as a village green.
The Open Spaces Society understands that this replacement land was excluded from registration as a village green because it was held and managed by the local authority under the Open Spaces Act 1906 and therefore the public already had a legal right of access there for recreation.
The application for the exchange of village green will be determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State, whose published policy states that the public must be no worse off in consequence of the exchange. The Open Spaces Society says that clearly the public will be worse off, since people will gain no new access from the replacement land and they will lose a chunk of their village green to a car park.
The policy also states that ‘the Secretary of State would not normally grant consent where the replacement land is already subject to some form of public access, whether that access was available by right or informally, as this would diminish the total stock of access land available to the public’.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: “We know that Amble Braid is immensely popular with local people and visitors, which is why we were delighted when it was registered as a green nearly 10 years ago. This so-called exchange is totally unfair. The public would lose much and gain nothing. Also, the car park would create an eyesore in this prominent, seaside, open space.
“We have said that the proposal is against the interests of local people and visitors who use and enjoy this lovely green and against the Secretary of State’s policies for village greens. We have called for the rejection of this offensive plan.”