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Playing fields decision goes to public inquiry
A battle to protect Richmond College’s playing fields for public use is nearly over after an inquiry last week.
The inquiry by an independent planning inspector will decide if one of the playing fields, Craneford Way East, will be granted village green status that will ensure the public can maintain their right of access.
Environmental group Friends of River Crane Environment (Force) applied for the status in 2011 to ensure residents could continue using the land.
The field is owned by the college, which acquired it from Richmond Council in the 1990s despite objections from residents.
Chairman of Force Rob Gray said: “We submitted this application as we wish to ensure that the public can maintain the right of access on to this playing field.
“The decision of the inspector will depend on his interpretation around Commons Law and we are hopeful that he will find our application is valid.
“Whatever the outcome, though, we have established beyond doubt that this field is a valuable resource for local people, and has been for at least 50 years.
“We are therefore confident that the college will respect this, as well as their commitments on taking ownership of the field in the 1990s, and maintain full public access.”
A Richmond College spokesman said: “If the registration is upheld, the college would still retain its legal ownership of the fields.”
The inquiry was due to take place in July, but was deferred until December 2 and was heard over two days at York House. The inspector will make a decision in the next few months.
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