Public inquiry over future of historic Market Deeping Fields
Fields on the edge of Market Deeping have been used by the public for recreational and social uses for more than a century.
The claim, from town mayor David Shelton, came as a public inquiry opened on Tuesday at the Eventus Centre on Northfields Industrial Estate into whether the land on Millfield Lane should be given ‘village green’ status.
Lincolnshire County Council staged the event, which was expected to finish yesterday, due to it having two roles - as the landowner that recently submitted an outline planning application for 260 homes on the site, and as the authority that awards ‘village green’ status.
Planning inspector Martin Edwards explained his role was to advise the county council as to whether the application for such status should succeed. Only the county council objected, and whilst giving village green status to sites can help block planning schemes, the inquiry was not about planning.
It was to see whether the Commons Act has been met and whether the site has been used for ‘village green purposes’ for 20 years.
Barrister Simon Randle represented the county council as landowner, but declined to give an opening statement, saying he would respond to representations in his closing statement, which he would give next week in writing.
Applicant Pamela Steel of the Friends of Mill Field Group told the 40 or so members of the public present that she was ‘normal’ person representing ‘thousands’ of Market Deeping residents.
When Lincolnshire County Council announced plans for housing last year, a meeting saw 500 residents ask for the fields to be kept as public space, with just 14 seeing advantage in it being built on. A September survey also recorded 376 users of the fields over a weekend in September.
Pamela said the county council claims agricultural use for the field, but this amounts to grass for sheep and cattle, with some bailing of hay but no ploughing.
The site had been used for the Deepings Agricultural Show and only in recent years have warning signed appeared advertising private property.
Even when footpaths were closed in 2001 due to the BSE scare, she said footpaths across the fields remained open due to no crop or animal use.
David Shelton, who is also chairman of Deepings Heritage, said his group researched the site and found newspaper reports from the Stamford Mercury and Grantham Journal detailing a variety of sporting, social and leisure uses as far back as 1882. The Deepings Show also used the site from the 1960s to 2013.
He added: “Mill Field has been used for generations and is part of the heritage culture of the town.”
As the inquiry continued, at Mill Field dog walkers Jenny Jones of Bourne and son Aaron told the Mercury they have used the fields every day for five years.
Jenny said: “The fields are so well used not just by people with their dogs but children flying kites and there’s blackberry picking. It’s a fabulous space. There are little parks elsewhere but we need a proper space where children can play. If the fields are built on, everybody will be devastated.”