Compulsory purchase may be the only solution to resolve the long running saga over unmanaged areas of community assets on Fairfield.
That is the legal opinion of a specialist company of planning solicitors, retained by the parish council. The council is now seeking urgent talks with Central Bedfordshire Council urging them to take strong action to protect these areas.
A swathe of land down the centre of Fairfield has been the subject of talks, frustration and anger for over four years. They start with the West Orchard that strides alongside Hardy Way, the area of land behind the community centre designated as a junior football pitch, the tennis court, the East Orchard that fronts Russell Walk and Palmerston Way and the frontage of Fairfield from Kingsley Avenue to Eliot Way – that is meant to be the “gateway” to Fairfield.
Originally the matter was raised by two residents but has been taken up strongly by the parish council since its formation over two years ago. Residents, rightly, have vented anger and dismay at the council at seeing intended community areas going to waste.
Last year ownership of the areas was finally unravelled but legal management of them has never been finalised and agreed. Much of the blame falls with the now defunct Mid-Bedfordshire Council who not only produced weak legal agreements but then failed to enforce them. Central Bedfordshire Council and the parish council have been left to pick up the pieces and sort the problem out.
MP Alistair Burt has weighed in and tried to get all sides to the negotiating table. But one freeholder has steadfastly refused to take part while the other is adamant that he owns potential building plots.
A year ago the parish council employed Blandy and Blandy Solicitors from Reading to investigate the matter on their behalf. Their final conclusion is hampered by the fact that certain crucial legal documents cannot be traced at Central Bedfordshire Council.
Following an all day brainstorming meeting in August, between the solicitors, CBC ward councillor Steve Dixon and all councillors, Blandy and Blandy have given the council a detailed account with the advice that compulsory purchase may be the unwelcome but best course of achieving a result. Otherwise “we will still be sitting here in two years”.
To many the thought of compulsory purchase of assets clearly intended for the community will leave a nasty taste in the mouth. However, those of us who regularly walk through the Orchards cannot but help to notice the rapid deterioration of the apple trees, while the sight of families trying to play tennis on a court without a net is saddening.
A parish council does not have rights to compulsory purchase. Hence this would have to be done by CBC on FPC’s behalf. Providing CBC agree to support the council acting on behalf of you all (98 per cent who responded to the parish questionnaire voted to preserve all the green spaces), FPC will make one final attempt to get the freeholders to sit around a table to discuss.
The FPC letter, together with the detailed legal advice, is available to download. Click this link for the FPC letter and here for the legal advice.
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