Fight begins to seek village green status for threatened land at Siston

cllr john hopesA fight to protect open land in Siston has begun. About 50 local people packed into St Anne’s Church Hall at Siston last night to discuss the future of the land which they consider under threat after they received letters from the Land Registry telling them that Jonathan Tippett Seymour Williams and his sister Alexandra Eve Graves were applying to “register the freehold interest” of “manorial waste”.

Cllr John Hopes, pictured left, chairman of Siston Parish Council, who called the meeting, said the land in question stretched from Webbs Heath through Goose Green to the lower end of Carsons Road.

Around 60 households in the Siston area were sent letters by the Land Registry in Gloucester, telling them about the application. The letters were dated 23rd July and objections must be made to the Registry by noon next Tuesday, 13th August, sparking anger locally at the short notice period in peak holiday time.

And it emerged at the meeting that not all residents had been notified in the first instance and had had to request letters after learning of the situation from their neighbours. Cllr Hopes told the meeting that there had been no official notification to Siston Parish Council either and that he had heard about it after being notified by concerned residents.

Local people voiced concerns about accewebbs heathss to their properties and the possibillity of local land being developed for housing if the application to register the freehold interest goes through.

Mr Seymour Williams now lives in Wiltshire, but his family has been connected with Siston for many years.

Siston, Goose Green and Webbs Heath are on the list of commons that South Gloucestershire Council maintains.

Siston parish councillor and Siston Lane resident Richard Bendrey told the meeting that two similar bids to register the freehold of the land were made some years back but both were subsequently withdrawn. He said on the first attempt in 2004 he had sought legal advice and been told that he had “prescribed access” to his property.

Parish clerk Ellen Kenny will be writing to register the council’s objection to the application to register the freehold interest and Cllr Hopes stressed the importance of local people writing to lodge their individual objections too.

He warned: “This is a wide open situation. It is in your hands as residents. Every one of you must object in writing.”

Cllr Hopes, who is 80, said that when he was a child, there were cattle, ducks and chickens on the open land and it was used for ball games, including cricket.

He told the meeting that the new Localism Act encouraged the formation of neighbourhood groups and that the organisation the Open Spaces Society helped community groups register open space as a village green.

There was great interest at the meeting in starting a campaign to register the land as a village green and people keen to get involved are asked to call 0117 960 8716.

Only this week residents in Weston in Bath have been celebrating after learning they have won their campaign, mounted with the support of the Open Spaces Society, to register ‘The Field Behind Purlewent Drive’  as a village green. This means that local people have the right to enjoy the land for informal recreation and it is protected from development.

The campaign was in response to the unexpected, last-minute inclusion of the field for housing, in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s draft core development plan.