The Birmingham Mail reports that the story of the battle to save a plot of land in Greenfields, an area just north of Shrewsbury’s town centre, has been going on since 2017, when the land was sold to a developer with planning permission. The area has been designated public open space for 100 years according to the Greenfields Community Group (GCG) led by Dr Peter Day.
Unlawful, governance failings
Dr Day’s thorough research has revealed a tale of “serious governance failings in the unlawful sale of our park.” The group has raised money and initiated several court cases, progressing to a Judicial Review in 2019. In 2020 the Court of Appeal upheld planning permission for 15 houses and the GCG’s application to return the land to public use was denied.
The present Shrewsbury Town Council is composed of seven Labour councillors, six Lib Dems, two Conservatives and two Greens. The Council has attracted criticism both now and in the past and the Guardian reports that an independent investigation commissioned by the Council “makes uncomfortable reading (for the council).”
The Supreme Court and the Good Law Project
The affair has now made its way to the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court will hear the case on 7 December 2022 with the support of the Good Law Project and its director Jo Maugham has said “We want public land to be held for the public – and not to be sold out from under them without consultation. That’s why we are raising money – to protect the Greenfields site, the Community that uses it and so many other Communities who are losing their public spaces.”
This case extends beyond Shrewsbury; Dr Day says he has received emails from groups up and down the country who are beginning similar battles and law firm Leigh Day, representing Dr Day, are running a headline on their website stating “Appeal to Supreme Court over housing development on public land will have national significance”.
Because councils across the country are under pressure from a lack of government funding, they are responding by selling off plots of land to developers. Locality’s campaign ‘Save our Spaces’ reports that “on average, more than 4,000 publicly-owned spaces are being sold off every year.”
Legal fees and an independent inquiry have cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds. The Supreme Court verdict could set a dangerous national precedent if the CGC lose.
A crowdfunding appeal for Greenfields can be donated to here.