An application by the Oundle Town Council and residents of Oundle to retain Fletton Field on Glapthorn Road as a village green for use by the community, has been refused by Northamptonshire County Council (NCC).
Public announcement of the decision, communicated to the OTC in July 2017, was delayed until September due to legal reasons. Following a lengthy and expensive application process and public inquiry, NCC, as the Common Registration Authority rejected the town council’s application on the basis that ‘the applicant failed to prove that a significant number of inhabitants of Oundle Town participated in lawful sports and pastimes on “Fletton Field” for a period of at least 20 years’.
In December 2016, Oundle Town Council applied to the NCC to register the land as a village green under the Commons Act. As owner of the designated land, the NCC had planned to sell the land and prepare it for residential development, and as a result, a conflict of interest arose. Their status as landowners conflicted with their status as the Registering Authority for all village green applications.
In order to maintain an impartial status, the NCC appointed an independent inspector to establish the facts both for and against the application. The inspector was Miss Ruth Stockley of King’s Chambers, Manchester.
At a public inquiry held over many days, Miss Stockley heard evidence from 20 witnesses who spoke in support of the application, presenting examples of historic and continual recreational activities on the field over 20 years, including dog walking, children’s play, jogging, picnics, kite flying and ball games.
In section 2.14 of the Use as of Right, the inspector discounted the use of the land by Oundle students and Oundle School from the qualifying use. As part of the evidence of Future Community Use, Oundle School confirmed that they have offered to purchase the land to preserve it as green space. The Inspector’s conclusion was: ‘There is nothing in the applicant’s representation which causes me to change any of the findings or conclusions in my report.’
The Oundle Town Council’s application was supported by the Oundle Green Spaces Committee, who compiled an exhaustive file documenting use of the field by the community.
At a September meeting of the full council, the council said: ‘The council records thanks to the Oundle Green Spaces committee, who put in an enormous amount of work on this cause.’
Fletton Field, first made available to the Oundle community in 1899, has long had historical significance for the town. It was initially associated with Oundle Workhouse, and also appears to have been used as allotments in the 19th century and for most of the 20th century.
The Local Government Act in 1929 transferred the Poor Laws to local authorities and the ownership passed to Northamptonshire County Council. In 1973, it was designated as the playing field for the primary school on Milton Road. The town council asserted that the land was additionally used by the local community as a public open space. When the school relocated to Cotterstock Road, however, the ownership of the land reverted to NCC.
The town’s application stressed the point that if Fletton Field was to be sold for development, then the green space available to the residents of Oundle would be reduced by 45%. Most of the existing open green spaces in Oundle are under private ownership of Oundle School or other schools.
In March 2016, an application by NCC for development of the land for 13 dwellings was refused permission by East Northamptonshire Council.
It is uncertain as to what the NCC are planning for future use of the land.