New twist in saga over Dereham open space

Campaigners could face a fresh battle in their 40-year fight to save a well-loved piece of open space in Dereham if councillors raise an objection to it having protected status.

Residents on the Highfield Road estate - backed by Dereham Town Council – hope the land at Castell Road and Slough Plantation can be declared a town green, which would prevent it being developed.

Norfolk County Council has started a consultation on giving it the designation and more than 200 local people have signed a petition.

The land is owned by Breckland Council and next week its cabinet will be recommended to object to the application for town green status - even officers admit it could cause 'political discomfort.'

Fred Abrahams, of Castell Road, has led the campaign to save the green space's future since 1972.

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He said: 'I expected them to object. Breckland has said people come first - but now it is money coming first. It is such a tiny piece of land and I think this is greed.'

Breckland believes four-five homes could be built on the site and between �100,000 and �120,000 could be made from selling it to a developer. But it remains unclear who may want to buy it.

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Bennett Homes – which is re-developing the neighbouring former swimming pool site – was approached by Breckland to see if it would be interested in buying the land.

However, when the company became aware of the town green status application it said it was not interested.

The consultation runs until December 2 and the Breckland cabinet meets on Tuesday.

A report to the meeting by officers recommends objecting to the application as it 'impedes the future potential value of the site and the the open space designation already gives protection to some extent.'

They add: 'If the outcome of the objection is in the council's favour, this will give greater flexibility in the future use of the site.

'As landowner, it is imperative that we protect the potential value of this asset although officers are aware there are wider community issues.'

The town council has backed the application and said the land qualifies because it is well used for children playing, dog walking and blackberry picking, and people have been free to wander across it for more than 20 years.

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