A THREE-day public inquiry to be staged in March will play a critical role in deciding the future of a popular field.

The hearing will consider a bid by Ramsbottom Heritage Society to secure town-village green status for Church Fields, which has been closed to the public for nearly three years.

To be chaired by independent inspector Alan Evans, the inquiry is being held at Ramsbottom Civic Hall between March 4 and 6, from 10am to 5pm.

Mr Evans will give his recommendations to Bury Council which will make a final decision on the issue.

The society say If the application to have the Church Fields registered under the 2006 Commons Act is successful, then access to the site to the north east of St Andrew’s Church would be freely available. Society members have been examining the legal status of Church Fields since its owners, Peel Holdings, fenced the land off in April, 2011. President Andrew Todd has already collected statements from many local residents whose memories of leisure activities on the field stretches back to the 1920s.

Last year, he put out an appeal to hear from anyone who used the open space for recreation between 1991 and 2011 or who walked its two paths.

Mr Todd said: “We have assembled a panel of “witnesses” to read out statements to the inquiry. We have had to make a selection from a much larger number to give a representative spread of activities and years.

“Judging from the tone of recent meetings, it seems a good number of people will attend at least some of the inquiry.

“If our application fails, changes in the law mean that any future town-village green application will struggle. Peel have stated that their ultimate intent is to develop Church Fields.”

Mr Todd said that anyone who still had evidence questionnaires could hand them into the local library.