Briggate’s village green bid fails

A bid by hamlet residents to have land around a ruined north Norfolk water mill registered as a village green has ended in failure, after a three-year battle and a public inquiry.

Residents at Briggate, near North Walsham, learned this week that inquiry inspector Vivian Chapman has rejected their application because he felt they had not proved locals had been using the site for sports and pastimes throughout a 20-year period.

The tiny community, of just 36 homes, had mounted the bid after alleged attempts at land grabbing around the mill whose ownership is unclear.

In 1975 it was burnt down in an insurance scam which later saw owner Michael Howard and a Geoffrey Allen sent to prison after a high-profile court case in which the names of the infamous Kray twins were mentioned.

Diana Howes, who made the village green application, backed by dozens of other villagers, has pledged to keep fighting to ensure the site is protected from possible future land-grabbers.

'I'm very disappointed but I half expected it. It's very difficult to get this sort of thing passed,' said Mrs Howes.

Villagers still felt strongly that they wanted the site preserved for wildlife. She had watched several other similar Norfolk applications fail – at Melton Constable, Aylsham and Wells – and was aware that the odds were against her.

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She added: 'There are alternatives however and I will be exploring 'Plan B' with county councillor Paul Morse who has been supporting us.'

In July Mr Chapman took evidence from 13 villagers who attended the inquiry in Worstead, held under the auspices of Norfolk County Council.

They sought to prove that the land had been used for activities including walking, picnicking, kite-flying, painting, birdwatching and horseriding between 1984 and 2004.

But Mr Chapman decided that by about 1994 the area was so overgrown only a rough track was reasonably accessible which meant the community could only have been using the land as a right of way rather than a village green.

Mr Morse praised the efforts of Mrs Howe and her supporters. He said: 'It was a huge community effort to try to get this registration and the outcome is a great shame, but not unexpected, because the legislation is very complex and relies a lot on case law.

'There is no reason why, given that the owner is nowhere to be found, local people can't keep trying to preserve it as an amenity. All is not lost. We need to move forward and look at other possibilities.'

Application objector Yvonne Bullimore, who used to own a home in Briggate with her partner David Turner, did not attend the inquiry but submitted written information.