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TAMESIDE LOSES COURT BID TO PRESERVE PLAYING FIELD

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The destruction of a school playing field to make way for a housing development was given the green light in London...
The destruction of a school playing field to make way for a housing development was given the green light in London's High Court despite opposition from Tameside MBC.

The council fought the proposed development of 28 houses, claiming it would spoil one of the few green spaces in Ashton-Under-Lyne and ran contrary to its policy of preserving recreation grounds.

But the plan was given the go ahead yesterday when Judge Michael Rich QC dismissed an appeal by the council against an environment ministry inspector's decision that the development should be allowed.

Counsel for Tameside, Stephen Souvain QC, told the court the playing field off Arundel Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne, had been owned by nearby Ashton-Under-Lyne Sixth Form College which hired it to two football clubs as well as using it for its own pupils.

But the college sold it to developers Roland Bardsley (Builders) Ltd, and in 1995 the company applied for planning permission for housing development.

The council gave the plans the thumbs down because it ran contrary to its policy of preserving recreation grounds, and because it was one of the few open spaces in the area.

But the developers appealed to the ministry inspector who, after a public inquiry, found in the developers' favour in January this year.

In court yesterday the council tried to overturn the decision, claiming the inspector had failed to take sufficient account of the preservation policy and had wrongly assessed the impact on the local community.

Mr Souvain said: 'He defined community too narrowly by confining it to those who actively use sports facilities.

'In doing so he excluded from consideration those members of the community who derive passive, visual enjoyment from the site.' But Andrew Gilbert QC, for the developers, told the court the playing field would be replaced by marking out another pitch nearer the college.

And he said that as the field had always been in private ownership noone other than the college and the two football clubs had had any right to use it.

Further, he added, the inspector had judged in his report that the development was not 'so large as to materially alter the character of the area'.

He said: 'Having concluded there was no impact on the area and there was no formal use by the public of the open space the local authority's case was rejected.

'There was no realistic complaint to make about the decision'.

Dismissing the appeal, Judge Rich said the inspector had considered the visual impact of the development but had concluded it would not be detrimental and he had been influenced by the fact the field would be replaced elsewhere.

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