|Steep Fields History|
When the Delph became the Village Green
CHILDHOOD memories of retired textile workers have combined with new open spaces legislation to rescue a "village" green in the Pennine town of Hebden Bridge.
A legal decision that the two hummocky acres of Steep Fields (pictured above) should be redesignated as a green has filled in one of scores of gaps, overlooked when Britain's current register of common land was drawn up 20 years ago.
The successful action by a group of neighbours, who exercised a new right for a greens tribunal to consider their case, is likely to be followed by campaigners elsewhere in the country.
The hilly patch of trees and grass has been threatened by plans for 30 homes, drawn up by its owner Danny White, a Bradford developer. He bought the land from a former corduroy and fustian mill and is appealing to the Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine, against planning refusal by Calderdale council.
"Even if his appeal failed, we knew we'd be on a treadmill of new applications going in all the time," said Ian Anstee, who lives in Windsor Road.
Green tribunals, organised by local councils, will only consider applications for reregistration if proof is given of 20 years' "lawful sports and pastimes" by local people on the land in question. Last August saw the first chance for applications since the 1970 register was completed.
"We gathered masses of evidence - photographs, videos and letters - about Steep Fields," said Polly Webber, who runs a juggling equipment company in Hebden Bridge. "The children are always playing there. We have a bonfire every year and a maypole dance." Dorothy Lister, a pensioner in Windsor Road, took the evidence further back, telling the tribunal: "I spent long hours in my young days playing cricket and rounders on the bank in summertime and sledging when snow came."
REPORT: MARTIN WANWRIGHT