Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society, which is backing residentsCampaigners trying to save a Teesside wood say it should be classed as a village green.

Kate Ashbrook (left) of the Open Spaces Society, which is backing residents

Longridge Wood at Marton, near Middlesbrough, is threatened by housing development. If residents succeed in registering the wood as a village green, development will be prohibited.

The law says that, if local people have used the area for lawful sport and pastimes for 20 years without challenge, it can be registered as a green. 194 people have submitted forms to Middlesbrough Council, which has agreed to hear the application.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: “We are delighted that local people were able to gather the necessary evidence to submit the claim.  If the land is registered as a green it will be protected from development.  It will then be impossible to build on it unless suitable land is provided in exchange. 

“Local people submitted 194 forms giving evidence of use of the land for recreation for 47 years.”

“This included football and cricket matches, walking, jogging, painting, blackberrying and children riding bikes and flying kites.  When it snowed some years ago, one person even went cross-country skiing, while children went sledging and had snowball fights.”

Once land is registered as a village green it is protected from development by nineteenth-century legislation which makes it an offence to encroach upon a green.

Ms Ashbrook said: “This is just the sort of evidence that is needed to claim land as a green. You have to show you have used it for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’, without asking permission or being stopped, for 20 years.  It seems there can be no argument about the use of this land.”

In November, residents criticised the town’s mayor Ray Mallon, who in his previous guise as police chief was known as Robocop, for failing to protect the council-owned land. The developer wants to build 80 homes on the woodland, in return for providing a new classroom for a school and other local improvements.

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