The ongoing fight to keep Fletton Field as a green space at the centre of Oundle has been renewed by a group that includes Oundle Town Council, Oundle Transition, Oundle School and local residents. They plan to restate the case to the new unitary authority that the field should be saved from development as a multi-purpose, public green space for people to enjoy and benefit from.
The 1.7 acre site is located off Glapthorn Road with Abbott House to the north and Oundle School Chapel to the south. The field was used by Oundle Primary School until the school was relocated in 2016 and has been used by local residents and pupils at Oundle School for recreational activities for many years.
The site has not been identified for use in any Local Plans to meet the town’s commitments for new housing, and the Town Council and Oundle School are opposed to development on the site. In 2016 and 2019, Northamptonshire County Council submitted two outline planning applications for development, one for 13 houses and one for 33 extra care apartments; both were refused by East Northants Council.
In 2016, the field was designated by the ENC as an Asset of Community Value for its role in furthering the social wellbeing of the local community. Later that year, Oundle Town Council, supported by the then Oundle Recreation and Green Spaces Group submitted a further application for the land to be recognised as an official village green. The application included 87 witness statements demonstrating use of the land by the general community over a sustained period of time. After a lengthy and expensive application process and public inquiry, NCC, as the Common Registration Authority rejected the application: “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.”
The field’s status as an asset of Community Value expired in January, and has to be reapplied for to the new North Northants Council, the body which now owns the land.
Organisers argue that most of the green space within the parish boundaries is privately owned. Oundle has less green space per person than other comparable towns in Northamptonshire: one tenth that of Raunds and one fifth that of Burton Latimer. Losing Fletton Field to development would reduce Oundle’s public access green space by forty-two percent.
Tony Hoyle said: “The ideal solution would see title to the field transferred to Oundle Town Council and a charitable trust or Community Interest Company established to use and manage the space, taking inspiration from organisations such as The Green Patch in Kettering or The Geddington Brick Yard Garden.
“North Northamptonshire Council replaced NCC and ENC from 1 April 2021, so now is the time to reassert the town’s claim.”
In response to surveys, Oundle residents have indicated suggestions for use, including a community garden and venue for outdoor events and learning.
“The COVID pandemic has reminded us of the value of green space – for exercise and fresh air, for health and well-being, and once it has disappeared, getting it back is nearly impossible. We have a created a vision for the field, based on public survey, and we want to see it become a reality,” said Camilla Sherwin, leader of the campaign.
Fletton Field is part of land that was sold to the Guardians of the Poor of the Oundle Union by the trustees of John William Smith in 1899 and was originally used as allotments for the workhouse.
The Local Government Act in 1929 transferred the Poor Laws to local authorities and the ownership passed to NCC. The Indenture for sale of the land includes a covenant that prohibits building on a substantial part of the existing field.
In 1973, it was designated as the playing field for the primary school on Milton Road. When the school relocated to Cotterstock Road the ownership of the land reverted to NCC.