New village green at One Tree Hill

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We are celebrating the decision by Surrey County Council to register One Tree Hill at Long Ditton as a village green, thereby protecting it for ever.

The land comprises about 10 hectares of mixed woodland, open grassland, and scrub intersected by numerous paths.

One Tree Hill village green. Photo: Rodney Whittaker

About seven years ago, Elmbridge Borough Council’s consultants, Ove Arup and Partners, had identified the adjoining Stokes Field (owned by the council), and One Tree Hill (owned by developers Taylor Wimpey) as ‘lesser-performing green belt’ at risk of development. With advice from the society, concerned residents applied in August 2017 to register both areas as village greens. Residents had used both areas for recreation for several decades, one of the necessary criteria for land to qualify as a village green.

Elmbridge Council opposed the Stokes Field application and, foreseeing legal difficulties, our local correspondent, Rodney Whittaker, supported by borough councillors, began a campaign for the council voluntarily to register the land. This was eventually agreed by Elmbridge Council in April 2023. However, Taylor Wimpey was not prepared voluntarily to register One Tree Hill and so it was necessary for residents to gather evidence of use, without permission or challenge, for a period of 20 years.

There were three objectors, including Taylor Wimpey, to the application, so Surrey County Council, as the commons registration authority, held a public inquiry in April 2023.

There the applicants called 25 local witnesses including Rodney Whittaker. The inspector (barrister Stephen Morgan of Landmark chambers) recommended registration of the whole area excluding only two parts voluntarily withdrawn by the applicants, and this was confirmed by Surrey County Council’s planning and regulatory committee on 24 April 2024.

Says Rodney: ‘We are delighted at the outcome of the public inquiry. Together with the adjacent Stokes Field, this now provides an open area of nearly 20 hectares secured for use by local people. No less than 57 per cent of Elmbridge’s land area comprises registered commons and other open, accessible spaces. These are all well-used and much valued by the borough’s residents.’


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