Environment Secretary David MilibandThe Government has told a group it can’t build a village hall on Herefordshire common land.

The Environment Secretary’s decision follows a public inquiry into plans to build a new hall on Garway Common. The scheme would also have involved a gravel parking area and an asphalted access. Temporary fencing would have been put up.

Environment Secretary David Miliband 

The Open Spaces Society (OSS), a campaign group which aims to protect commons, objected to the application by Garway Village Hall Trustees. The trustees gained provisional planning permission for the new building but, because the proposed site was on common land, the Secretary of State’s approval had to be gained.

Local residents joined the OSS in objecting to the plans and a public inquiry was held. The inspector recommended rejection. Edgar Powell, who represented the OSS at the public inquiry, said: “This dreadful proposal was defeated by a magnificent consortium of local people working with the Open Spaces Society.

“We are delighted that the inspector, Mr T Cookson, has rejected the plan because it was not ‘of benefit to the neighbourhood’, an important test for applications for works on commons.

“He noted that the proposed hall would result in the removal of all or most of the trees and bushes on the site, and use of the site by walkers and children would be precluded.”

The inspector said it was a much appreciated and well used benefit to the neighbourhood that would be lost. The landscape would be replaced by urbanising built form where none presently exists.

Mr Powell said: “We were particularly impressed by the young people who made their case at the inquiry with compelling dignity, unshakeable reason and a maturity well beyond their years. We are pleased that they will be able to continue enjoying their local common, for play and climbing trees, as they told the inspector.”

  • The OSS has teamed up with the Ramblers’ Association to get a Sussex footpath added to the official map.

Bullfinch Lane in Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex was subject to a public inquiry after which inspector Helen Slade, ruled that the half-mile-long l was a footpath and should be added to the definitive map.

Local resident Ted White, who represented the Ramblers’ Association at the inquiry said: “This is a great victory. My application was supported by a phalanx of local groups and 177 individuals.

“They had evidence that they had used the path without being challenged and without asking permission. However, we believed the route to be under threat because in August 2003 a gate was erected at the northern end, which made us fear that the landowners might challenge the public’s use.”