Opinion split over village green verdict

The Haven site in Beadnell, which is subject to a village green application.
The Haven site in Beadnell, which is subject to a village green application.

THE ‘dignified silence’ of Beadnell’s fishing families, during a planning battle that has ‘cruelly divided’ the village, has been praised.

Following last week’s news that two village green bids on the coast were recommended for rejection by an inspector, the secretary of Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society, John Wall, said that their voices were finally heard at last year’s inquiry.

“The long-standing residents of this village want to protect and maintain their harbour forever,” he said.

“The Save Beadnell Association want to save their views and I respect their point of view but the majority of their members are second-home owners.

“They do not represent the depth and history of a village with a fishing heritage which spans many generations.”

“The real people who have held a dignified silence throughout the debate are the remaining fishermen and the families of the fishing folk.

“What was striking at the inquiry is that not only did these people step forward and tell the truth but their voice has at last been heard above the roar of campaigning.”

Mr Wall also said that he was pleased with the outcome, especially as it ‘was based on the facts, not a subtle nuance or legal interpretation’.

“Needless to say, we are delighted with the result,” he said.

“Common sense has at last prevailed and justice has been done but it has been at a price.

“The Fishermen’s Society was forced into defending an unnecessary and unwarranted application which was designed solely to frustrate the planning process and nothing to do with the true intent of the village green legislation.

“The financial cost of that has been high. Our legal costs alone were £15,000.

“On the basis that three barristers were involved and that the applicant and council’s costs were similar to ours that is nearly £50,000 that has been wasted on an unnecessary and unwarranted inquiry that could have been used to safeguard and maintain our harbour.

“And that, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg as it puts no value on the time or cost of preparing for defending and attending at the inquiry.”

In a statement, the Save Beadnell Association said that it was ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ with the inspector’s findings.

It goes on: “The inspector has presided over several such inquiries but has yet to grant in favour of the applicant.

“We are, however, concerned that much of the evidence provided by residents and visitors was not contested at the hearing and, therefore, was accepted as fact and yet little account seems to have been taken of it in the final report as this would not have fitted in with his findings.

“It is a tragedy that this land will not now be reopened for public use and return to its former beauty but will stay fenced off and be allowed to deteriorate while the Society attempts to develop it.

“The Association will continue with renewed energy to ensure the safety of our beautiful heritage coast.

“It is of paramount importance that we do everything in our power to prevent our coastal strip being lost because of the greed of a property developer.

“The association sympathises with the Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society but there are other options to maintain the historic Beadnell Harbour without forever ruining the coast.

“The support for our campaign continues to grow not only from concerned residents and visitors but also from the National Trust, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, AONB, Environment Agency and many other such agencies.

“The Save Beadnell Association would like to assure its supporters that it will continue to work to ensure that our coastline is retained for future generations to use and enjoy.”

The inspector’s recommendations will be considered by Northumberland County Council’s rights of way committee on Friday, March 16.