Neighbours win fight for site to become village green

CAMPAIGNERS have won their battle to protect a popular picnic spot in Henleaze.

Bristol City Council has agreed an application from people living nearby to register the land at Ridgehill as a village green, despite objections from the landowner and a few neighbours. The decision was taken by the public rights of way and greens committee on April 15.

The application for the small site at the end of a cul-de-sac was first made in 2022 by people living nearby. Writing to the council, they set out the reasons for protecting the site, including how volunteers have helped with its upkeep.

The applicants said: “Since 1988, the local community has held annual summer picnic barbecues. Local people have volunteered to cut grass and generally maintain the land. Chippings have been laid to improve the surface of the informal path crossing the site and linking to the network of public rights of way across Golden Hill.

“Throughout all this time, access to the land and adjacent public footpaths has not been interrupted or prevented by the landowner. For over 30 years, Ridgehill Green has been in regular community use for picnic barbecues, recreational gardening, ad hoc passing-by on recreational walks, or just a place to stop and chat.”

Several neighbours also wrote in to support the green, and objected to a recent planning application for a house there. The planning application received many letters in objection, and some in support.

But others supported the planning application, and said the landowner, Mushtaq Ahmed of Stapleton Road, should be allowed to build a house on land that he owns. Mr Ahmed objected to the village green plan, saying his planning application by law means it must be refused.

However, council officers said that as he applied for planning permission in 2023 — after the residents applied to register the land as a village green in 2022 — that wasn’t a valid reason for refusal.

One neighbour also objected to the village green application, saying the small piece of land was seldom used for anything other than a shortcut by people walking to the nearest Tescos. They also wrote to the council last year with their objections.

It’s understood there are over 100 members of the local neighbourhood watch group, who were all informed of the application. The council initially put up public notices in the wrong place, but then later put up notices at the picnic spot, informing residents of the application.

The public rights of way and greens committee were urged to make a decision on registering the land, rather than deferring to a barrister to examine all the evidence. Specialist barristers are often brought in for town and village green applications, costing the taxpayer many thousands.

Conservative Councillor Steve Smith said: “You can and should make a decision on this today. There’s three objections. One from the landowner that’s baseless, because it’s based on a planning application that was submitted after the TVG.

“There’s one from a neighbour. Although it questions how many people knew of the application, it doesn’t actually dispute any of the facts that the application is based on. In fact, it confirms that this piece of land has been used by the community for some years.

“And the third objection, I don’t believe is an objection at all. It describes the history of the land, but it doesn’t object to it being a TVG. So you’ve got one baseless objection, one objection that isn’t an objection at all, and one objection that actually substantiates what the applicants are saying.”

The committee voted unanimously to register the site as a village green. However, the landowner could still legally challenge the decision in the courts, as is happening with a more high-profile application, for Stoke Lodge playing fields in Stoke Bishop.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service