David and Goliath battle for Harefield green

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Next week is a further milestone in the campaign to save Harefield’s Medi Parc site as a green space for local people. On Tuesday (20 March) the public inquiry opens into the application by the Harefield Tenants’ and Residents’ Association to register the land as a village green. Harefield is a village on the western outskirts of London.

The association, with backing from the Open Spaces Society, applied to register the 25-acres of grass and scrub in 2010, to secure the rights of local people to enjoy the land for informal recreation. The application was based on evidence of use, by local people, for 20 years without permission or being stopped. The use includes walking, jogging, bird-watching, picking blackberries, picnicking, dog-walking, playing with children, scouts and much else.

In 2010 landowner Comer Homes moved in and fenced and cleared the land, pushing out many species of animals and plants, in anticipation of building flats there. The residents applied to Hillingdon Council for village green status, Comer Homes objected and the council called a public inquiry so that an inspector could investigate the evidence for a green and make a recommendation to the council. If the land is registered as a green it is protected from development.

Says Tina Wane of the Harefield Tenants’ and Residents’ Association: ‘It has taken two years from the initial application by the association to get to a public inquiry.

‘The Medi Parc land, which we are hoping to register as a green, is in the green belt and is next to ancient woodland which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Local people have used the land for recreation for well over 20 years, until the developers fenced off the site in 2010. The land was recommended as a grade 1 Site of Interest for Nature Conservation by the Greater London Authority in 2003, but unfortunately this was not adopted by Hillingdon Council.

‘However, there is no doubt that it is a very special site, a green jewel in the heart of our village.

‘We are up against stiff opposition in our fight to protect this land for future use by the Harefield people. We are to face an expert legal team on the other side—it’s a real David and Goliath situation,’ says Tina.

Adds Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘The residents have a good case for registering the land as a green and we wish them every success. They set a fine example in their dogged determination to protect their green space for the community’s use and enjoyment for ever more.’

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