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We are delighted that the historic community-orchard in Dartmouth, Devon, is now officially a village green. On 2 February, the society joined an event organised by the Friends of Dartmouth Community Orchard and Dartmouth Town Council to unveil the plaque marking this achievement.
Now that the orchard is registered as a green with Devon County Council, this open space is safe for ever, and local people have rights of informal recreation here.
The 1.3-hectare green was registered voluntarily by the owner, Dartmouth Town Council. The Open Spaces Society advised the Friends on how to achieve this registration.
The plaque was unveiled by the town’s deputy mayor, Graham Evans.
Says Helen Clayton, one of our case officers, who was present at the unveiling: ‘The Friends of Dartmouth Community Orchard, and Dartmouth Town Council, have set a splendid example to other communities, by voluntarily registering this lovely open space for all to enjoy.
‘Registration as a green is a powerful tool because it protects land from development and encroachment.
‘More than a decade ago the society helped the Friends of Sugary Green to save another open space in Dartmouth by registering it as a green. That space (which was threatened with development) is, like the community orchard, saved for ever.
‘The Open Spaces Society is pleased to help its members rescue their green spaces, and Dartmouth certainly sets a good example to all.’
Says Peter Goldstraw of the Friends of Dartmouth Community Orchard: ‘The Friends are extremely grateful to the Open Spaces Society for the advice and guidance we received in the early years of this long campaign, especially the comprehensive guidance contained in the society’s publication Getting Greens Registered.
‘This book set out the steps we needed to take, and enabled us to switch our approach to that of voluntary registration, when other avenues closed and a change of attitude by a new town council, the present custodians of the site, became apparent.’
Dartmouth’s community orchard is 1.3 hectares between Ridge Hill and College Way, and is the last remnant of 19 orchards shown on the tithe map of the parish in 1840. It was owned by Raleigh Estate, then obtained by compulsory purchase by the Ministry of Defence. In 1993, when it was no longer needed for naval training, it was purchased by Dartmouth Town Council. There were various threats of development.
In 2014, concerned local people formed the Friends of Dartmouth Community Orchard and decided, with advice from the Open Spaces Society, that the best protection would be by registering the land as a village green. However, the group recognised that, in the face of opposition by the landowner, this is a long and contentious process. After the changes brought about by the town council elections in May 2019 the council was more sympathetic, and it agreed to register the land voluntarily.