A group of residents in Dore look set to lose a five-year battle to have a playing field declared a village green - after an official inspector who led a £20,000 public inquiry said the land had not been used often enough to merit the title.
The Dore Village Society lodged an application to have King’s Croft Playing Field, behind Dore Primary and the former site of King Ecgbert’s Upper School, designated as a new village green.
The measure was taken to protect the land from development, with the group claiming the field was used for dog walking, cycling, football, church events and children’s play for decades.
Last year Sheffield Council’s licensing committee sent the matter to a costly independent inquiry - but in a report set to go before a meeting today (Thursday), the inspector, barrister Ruth Stockley, said the criteria for a village green had not been met, and recommended councillors refuse the application.
David Crosby, from the village society, said members were ‘very disappointed’, and claimed the public hearing wasn’t necessary.
“It is my view that the land has been used by both general walkers and dog walkers,” said Ms Stockley. “The primary use of the land by walkers without dogs has been as a shortcut to gain access to and from the village, and also as a means of access to and from the school.
“Such uses are not the exercise of a recreational right over a village green but rather are more akin to the exercise of a right of way.”
She added: “Although I accept some uses have taken place which have been recreational in nature, my impression is they were much more limited in nature and frequency by a few individuals on a much more sporadic basis.
“The applicant has failed to establish that the land has been used for lawful sports and pastimes to a sufficient extent and continuity to have created a town or village green.”
In order to designate land as a village green, the area must have been used for sports or pastimes for at least 20 years. The committee report said the bill for the public inquiry came in at £20,000 - and that if the decision is challenged, ‘significant legal costs are likely to be incurred by the council’.
Mr Crosby said: “Dore Village Society is of course very disappointed that the inspector felt not enough use had been made of the land to recommend registration.
“If the council had dealt with the application in a similar timescale as most councils in 2008, the council would not have needed to expend £20,000 in legal costs.”
The proposed village green is a patch of potentially coveted land for developers. Recently land in Dore’s green belt area sold at auction for £415,000, more than 13 times its guide price.