The application made by Malvern Civic Society for designating Hayslan Fields as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) has been rejected by Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC).
Clive Hooper, Chairman of Malvern Civic Society, said: “There is no appeal against the decision which is understood to be made by a panel of MHDC officers under the control of the Community Services Department: there is no elected member involvement in the process, unlike the practice in other authorities. There is, however, provision for groups to make a complaint if they consider that the correct procedure has not been followed.
“In the circumstances, the Civic Society will be lodging a complaint on the grounds that the conclusions reached are not consistent with the requirements of Section 88 of the Localism Act, nor MHDC’s stated views regarding the Fields’ value to the community as amenity land; so therefore the authority has misdirected itself, and its procedure has been flawed.”
The Localism Act 2011 provides for buildings or land to be protected where it can be demonstrated that they are used for furthering the social well-being or social interests of the local community, or have been used to do so in the recent past and could do so in the future. Once ACV status has been conferred, it means that if the ‘asset’ is ever offered for sale, then the local community is given the opportunity to make a bid to buy it.
Mr Hooper explains: “In the case of Hayslan Fields, this would have meant that more protection could have been given to the land, in addition to that which has been secured through the recent public inquiry and through MHDC’s own designation of the area as having QL2 status (signifying its value to the health and well-being of the community as amenity land) and subsequently in the South Worcestershire Development Plan when the fields were designated Green Space.
“I’m sure the local community will be as disappointed as I am with the rejection of the application. The reason given was that ‘the nomination does not meet the definition of an asset of community value as set out in section 88 of the Act’, and that ‘the nominated area of land is private property with no evident permissions for access other than the Public Rights of Ways, as marked’.
“It seems that the MHDC officers are implying that there is no actual current use of the land, and therefore no furtherance of the social well-being or social interests of the local community. Yet these Rights of Way pass through the fields, giving access to them, and the community clearly is enjoying and benefiting from them.”
“The rejection also goes against the comments made by the Appeal Inspector in her report after the public inquiry which rejected the application to develop the land for housing. She had noted that ‘I find that the area of Hayslan Fields proposed for development is significant in helping to meet the existing community’s needs for access to and across open space for recreational purposes and for health and well-being’.”