Bid to turn Walmersley church land into village green fails

Christ Church Field in Walmersley

Christ Church Field in Walmersley

First published in News
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Bury Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A BID to turn church land in Walmersley into a "village green" has failed after it was rejected by planning inspectors.

Planning inspectors ruled that land at Springside Road, beside Christ Church Walmersley, had not been used for “sports and pastimes” over the past 20 years and so could not be officially recognised as a village green.

Friends of Walmersley Village (FOWV), who launched the application, said they were disappointed but said they would now try to work with the church to find a solution to benefit both the church and the community.

Chairman Paul Denney said: “We are obviously disappointed with this outcome. We didn’t want to go down the village green route but, at that stage, we felt we were left with no alternative.

“However, we believe there is now a real opportunity for all concerned to find a solution that will benefit Christ Church and the parish of Walmersley.

"Our door has always been open, and it still is.”

In 2012, it was reported that the church could sell the land for £1.1 million and that the Affordable Housing Consultancy and V9 Developments were working with Great Places Housing Group on the development plan.

It was said the money raised would allow the church to upgrade its hall to provide a community facility.

The public inquiry sought to determine whether the land “had been used for lawful sports and pastimes over the past 20 years”.

Inspector Alan Evans chaired a two-day inquiry to consider the application by FOWV which was opposed by Christ Church.

Campaigners had argued that if the land was registered as a village green, it would effectively protect the open space and prevent it from being considered for the building of 44 homes.

But concluding his 90-page report, Mr Evans said: “It has not been demonstrated that use of the application land for lawful sports and pastimes by local inhabitants has been ‘as of right’ for the relevant 20-year period.

“The application must therefore fail and I recommend to the registration authority that it is rejected.”

His recommendation will go forward to next Tuesday’s meeting of Bury Council’s planning control committee — which will make the final decision.

Vicar of Christ Church Walmersley, the Reverend Dave Thompson said: “What I want to say first of all is that I don’t feel there are any winners.

"The community has been divided in the past and we are now looking to work with the community to find a way forward.”

Asked if the site was still earmarked for housing, he added: “There is no option currently on the table and we start with a new sheet of paper.

"We would be looking to include the community and the Friends of Walmersley Village specifically in any future discussions.”

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