Threat to Lyde Green Common withdrawn – for now

Norft, the company which last year applied to deregister ancient Lyde Green Common, sparking fears it wanted to develop the land for housing, has withdrawn its proposal.

A planning inquiry had been due to take place in the coming months but Norft has now told the Planning Inspectorate that it will not be proceeding with the application.

The decision has been cautiously welcomed by campaigners amid speculation that this might only be a temporary reprieve for the Common. Many feel that Norft did not follow the correct procedures when it lodged its application last autumn, such as not officially notifying Emersons Green Town Council. The authority only found out after a local resident flagged it up.

Norft is based in Devon and headed by Julian Darling, who claimed ownership of the Common some years ago after buying the lordship of the manor of Westerleigh. His company applied to deregister the Common for “health and safety” reasons, saying the area would become more heavily trafficked with the new Lyde Green development being built nearby, with a risk to people using the Common. A site off Coxgrove Hill was proposed by Norft as an alternative Common.

But campaigners believe Norft’s intention is to ultimately sell the Common for housing. The land was included in a development plan in 2004 but removed in 2011.

Today Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore said: “I’m delighted that this threat to Lyde Green Common has been withdrawn, and that our campaign to keep Lyde Green ‘green’ has been a success.

“This is a historic common land dating back centuries that should be preserved for future generations to enjoy, in particular the new growing community at Lyde Green that needs green space among the new houses.

“The next stage must be to protect our common land and recognise its historic and valued status; in particular, I am concerned that this patch of common land is not registered as Green Belt land, and I will be making the case that common land such as this should be protected under Green Belt regulations, or else future challenges like this may occur.”

Commoner Gerald Taylor, of Howsmoor Lane, said: “I am very happy it has been withdrawn but going forward there needs to be enhanced protection for the Common as it is an obvious target.”

Emersons Green Town Council, which had been against deregistration and started a petition, said it was important that people moving into the new houses at Lyde Green used the green space.

Around 2,500 homes are being built at Emersons Green East over the next 10 years by several developers, including Taylor Wimpey, Linden, Barratt and Persimmon, and the new development will border the common where hedgerows are said to date back at least 1,000 years.