Official green space bid for Lee-on-the-Solent dropped after church promises not to build homes on the site

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A bid to turn green space outside a Lee-on-the-Solent church into an official recreational area has been dropped after the Diocese of Portsmouth said it wouldn’t build there.

In 2017, an application was submitted to Hampshire County Council to register land at Victoria Square as a town or village green. The Diocese of Portsmouth owns the land and the application aimed to convert the land into a space where local people can rightfully play sports or games and have picnics.

The application, submitted by the Lee Residents Association (LRA), sought to register the land on the basis that it had been used by a significant number of locals for lawful sports and pastimes for at least 20 years. It has now been withdrawn after the diocese said it had no plans to develop the open space.

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The association said that re-registering ‘The Green’ on Victoria Square, Lee-on-the-Solent, as a village green was intended “to protect an established ‘as of right’ use and allow that use to continue unbroken”. A spokesperson for the association said: “The Lee Residents Association’s unequivocal aim when making the application was to maintain the remaining open space for the enjoyment of the community.

The Diocese of Portsmouth owns the land at Victoria SquareThe Diocese of Portsmouth owns the land at Victoria Square
The Diocese of Portsmouth owns the land at Victoria Square

“In making such application the sole purpose was to protect in law the status of this well-known and well-used community asset. The original application was supported by an 855-signature petition against the overdevelopment of the former vicarage grounds.”

The county council advertised the application in December 2023. Following the advertisement of the application, the diocese sent a statement of objection to the council laying out “a number of grounds, citing relevant case law, on which the application should be refused”, the county council report said.

As normal procedure, at the end of the consultation period, the diocese’s objections were forwarded to the Lee Residents Association. After considering the objection, the association told the council in March 2024 that “it would be content to withdraw its application if the diocese could confirm that it had no intention of developing the application land”.

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In a letter the Diocese of Portsmouth has confirmed it had “no plans to develop the open space”. The letter said: “The church recognised the importance of this space to the parish and wider community.” After the confirmation was received, the association withdrew its application.

A group spokesperson said: “In its objection statement the diocese have confirmed that it has no plans to develop the open space and, even if it did, the chances of this occurring is, to all intents, non-existent as it would not only impact on the setting of the church, which is a Grade II-listed building, but would also deprive the church of an important resource in the promotion of its pastoral activities within the local community. As a consequence of this written assurance, the LRA has withdrawn its village green application”.