People win fight to keep green space

Ian Clarke People power triumphed yesterday as campaigners triumphed in their battle to save a well loved green in the heart of their estate in the Toftwood area of Dereham.

Ian Clarke

People power triumphed yesterday as campaigners were victorious in their battle to save a well-loved green in the heart of their estate.

For the past few months, residents of Boyd Avenue, in the Toftwood area of Dereham, had feared Breckland Council would sell off their haven of tranquillity for housing.

The green at Laburnum Crescent has been used for more than 40 years by generations of children and grandchildren to play on, for walking dogs and for people to sit and enjoy a green spot which has escaped the bricks and mortar.

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The site was named on a list by the council which could be considered for development, and councillors Robin Goreham and Michael Fanthorpe teamed up with residents to save the green from the bulldozers.

More than 200 people signed a petition and dozens attended various meetings to voice their protests.

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And yesterday, district councillors agreed to hand over the green in the middle and two others at either end of the estate to the town council so they can stay as open spaces.

Ken Bowles, who has lived on the estate for nine years, summed up the feelings of the community: "We've won! Common sense has prevailed and we are absolutely delighted. Thank goodness for democracy.

"It is like our village green. The other day I was not feeling very well and I looked out of my bedroom window and the sun was shining across the green. A man was walking across there with his dog and it really helped me feel better."

Glenys Burridge, who has helped spearhead the campaign, said: "It is wonderful news. The last few months have been so stressful."

Her four grandchildren enjoy playing on the green and she said simply: "It is so peaceful."

Keith Long has lived opposite the green since 1966 and his children - Stephen, 42, Gavin, 40, and Sarah, 21 - all spent many hours on the green as youngsters.

"It is brilliant news. If it had gone, it would have become a brick jungle."

Patricia Neate said: "If it was not for councillors Goreham and Fanthorpe we would not have known about it and the council would have tried to get it through."

About 40 residents in the council chamber clapped as their victory was announced - and they then celebrated back on the green.

Last night, the man who designed the estate - architect Gerald Brown, who now lives in Watton - said: "It was designed to make it attractive to people living there and it gives me a certain satisfaction to think that things as I saw them have been proved right."

After the meeting, a delighted Mr Goreham said: "It is a victory for people power and common sense. I would like to pay tribute to the dedicated campaign of the local residents. It is a pity that Breckland Council took so many weeks about it, but it is better late than never."

Mr Fanthorpe said: "We are delighted and this land should never be built on."

While Boyd Avenue residents were thrilled with yesterday's victory, they are now gearing up for another tussle over the extra traffic at the entrance to the estate from the new nursery at the corner of Boyd Avenue and School Lane.

Breckland councillors yesterday also voted to take the other sites in Dereham - at Girling Road, Howlett Close, Moorgate Road and South Green Gardens - off the list for areas which could be redeveloped, until after a green infrastructure plan is completed later this year.

But they have also agreed to spend up to £130,000 looking at possibly redeveloping other areas of vacant land across Breckland.

Mr Goreham said the spending was "needless" and "a waste" of council tax payers' money.

Breckland leader William Nunn said: "I would like to thank the residents of Boyd Avenue for coming forward and stating their case so clearly and eloquently."

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