‘Stitch-up’ claim as residents lose village green bid

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ANGRY residents say they will take their fight to have land designated as a village green to the High Court.

Hampshire County Council yesterday voted to refuse permission for the land off Tichborne Way in Gosport to be given the protected status.

But those who supported the bid have branded it a ‘stitch-up’ – as the county wants the land for the controversial £25m Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme.

As reported, Vivian Chapman QC oversaw a four-day inquiry last July on the matter and recommended the majority of the land be given the new status, which prevents development on it.

But county officers hired another barrister, Morag Ellis QC, to look at a single point of law over the right of the public to use the site, known locally as The Triangle. This point of law has never been examined by a judge, so is open to interpretation.

Ms Ellis decided the land should not be protected, a view which councillors backed.

Campaigner Janet Lidgey, of The Chine, said after the meeting: ‘I think this is absolutely disgusting. It’s a stitch-up.

‘We are going to fight this as far as we can and I think there does need to be a judicial review.’

Christine White, of nearby Downside, said: ‘Fighting Hampshire County Council as judge and jury has left us all with a feeling of complete disempowerment.

‘Fairness and justice don’t seem to count for anything.’

During the committee’s hearing Cllr Mark Cooper said: ‘When I read through the papers I found myself getting angrier and angrier.

‘There was a very obvious balance of evidence on Mr Chapman’s side and it was a single very legalistic point on Ms Ellis’ side.’

Cllrs David Simpson and Jackie Porter asked how the hiring of a second, unaccountable, QC would be perceived by the public.

Cllr Simpson said: ‘What we did was wrong.

‘We paid an expert to go through all the evidence and we should accept his finding.’

But councillors voted 10 to seven in favour of rejecting the village green bid.