“Small victory on a sad day for the ward” as Dean Road field fails in green status bid
A “small victory on a sad day” for Rhosnesni was secured by some councillors last night in a meeting full of points of order and confusion from some over what was being voted on.
A report presented to full council last night outlined how campaigners trying to save Dean Road playing field had failed to secure village green status for the land – a position that was backed by councillors last night.
Inspector James Marwick, a barrister with experience of village green registration matters, found that whilst the criteria was met on four factors, it failed on “use of right” and “continuation of use.”
As a result it was recommended that the application is rejected – with councillors encouraged to back the inspector’s decision.
This was accepted by members, with the full council opting to follow the inspector’s advice and agreed not to adopt village green status for Dean Road playing field.
Councillors were warned that if they ignored the guidance then the local authority could be put at risk of judicial review or a complaint made to the Ombudsman.
During the meeting Rhosnesni councillor Andy Gallanders ‘noted the legal advice’ and forward an amendment that added another section to the recommendation that was being voted on, that “Wrexham County Borough Council initiate immediate dialogue with Glyndwr University to formally safeguard the remaining land for the people of Rhosnesni as per Glyndwr University’s live planning permission on this land”.
Cllr Gallanders was referring to a section of the land, which has been allocated to the control of Wrexham Council, used by sporting groups.
The amendment proposal prompted a lengthy speech from the Leader of the Council Mark Pritchard who opposed it: “With regards to having dialogue with Glyndwr University, there is a dialogue, it is ongoing as we speak.
“It went to planning it was granted with conditions and part of that land will be part to this council – subject to us supporting it – and we couldn’t move forward with that because this application went in.
“There was discussions with a football club, which I’m sure the elected members support, and they want to use that land and they want to put a football pitch there and they want to play on it.
“That is what we will explore. So really, if we speak to the university or not, the gift is in our hands to take it forward. Not not in the university’s.
“So I won’t support the amendments, it is just adding bureaucracy to it.
“I’m more than happy to give a commitment to this council that we will have discussions with the football club and work with them and hopefully they can have a football pitch that they can be proud of within the community.”
Cllr Pritchard went on a political kite flying exercise: “I won’t ask the question, but I will just throw this into the mix. If this was a green, would it restrict football being played within that area?
“I believe it probably would because how could you have a football team and a pitch marked out if it’s a green and then people can go and and use it and fly kites and play games on it when it’s a football pitch?”
Cllr Dana Davies, who was ‘interested’ in the amendment ‘reassured’ Cllr Pritchard that kite flying and football could co-exist on a town or village green status land and clarified the amendment related to the council owned, or allocated, section of the field – as it referred to the ‘remaining land’.
Cllr Marc Jones spoke in favour of the amendment, “I think Glyndwr may have won the legal rights to build those houses on that field, I don’t think has the moral rights to do so.
“I think it’s really important that we protect what we have, I think it’s very unfortunate as well that certain people here wish to protect certain green spaces, but don’t feel able to protect other green spaces.
“I think they should be consistent, and I will be consistent. I’ll protect the Nine Acre field and I will protect Dean Road.”
There appeared confusion from some councillors on what exactly was going on, which parts of the field were or were not being built on, and what the recommendation infront of them would mean.
The fact planning permission for housing was even granted on a section of the field appeared to come as a surprise to some councillors.
The Legal Officer clarified that if the ‘green status’ was issued it would not mean the development would stop.
Cllr Gallanders requested a recorded vote, with the Mayor checking if the required ten members supported such method, and counted out 11 hands indicating it was valid.
Cllr David A Bithell raised a point of order asking if the amendment ‘was actually legal’, and was told it was.
Cllr Pritchard came back again: “There are a lot of politics play this evening in the chamber. I want to make it very clear to everybody – there is no threat of building on that land from this council.
“We all want to protect and preserve areas within the city. We’ve made the announcement on Nine Acre.
“You know that land is our land, it’s in our gift now to what we do with it. The University have put their boundary lines straight across, they’ve made their position clear, it went through planning.
“It’s up to this council to decide on what we want to do with it. If we have a discussion with the university or not, it won’t matter. It’s in our gift.
“Now if there’s the will of this chamber and the elected members to protect that as public open space, Owain Glyndwr green in the future then that’s fantastic. But, there’s no threat of that ever being built on.
At the end of his second speech on the matter Cllr Pritchard branded the amendment a ‘gimmick’: “I don’t support the amendment, because there’s no threat on it. I feel the amendment, and I have to say it, is a gimmick really just to be put out there for us to have a conversation with somebody who will have no influence over that land.”
The Mayor then asked the Council Leader how quick the decision would be on what to do with the remaining land.
Cllr Pritchard offered several routes the decision could take, reiterating he would not support building on the land, and would prefer youth football use: “It would go through due process. You could call it into scrutiny, and make a decision on a recommendation.
“You could have a task and finish group on it. You can do lots of things, or we could pick it up as an executive board and go through that process.”
Cllr Malcom King was a self confessed ‘confused’ councillor as he thought the amendment “was on Glyndwr’s land not ours”, and after a long speech indicated he would support it to indicate his support for the community.
Cllr David A Bithell missed the Mayor’s actions earlier in the meeting calling a point of order about the recorded vote, asking the Legal Officer if there was 15 members needed to make it happen. The Mayor pointed out he had checked earlier and had counted to 11 earlier.
The roll call recorded vote took place on the amendment, with For 30 / Against 13 / Abstain 4.
That then became the substantive motion for the Full Council to vote on, which they did seconds later.
The formal outcome was a rarity, the Full Council deciding something that was clearly against the viewpoint of the Council Leader, with For 27 Against 15 Abstain 3.
After the meeting one councillor told us of their surprise at the ‘ease’ that the vote went through, and queried the last time a vote took place and was won against such a speech from a Council Leader, describing it as a ‘symbolic kicking’.
Cllr Gallanders reacted publicly, tweeting the below gif from Mary Poppins about kite flying – branding the vote outcome as a “small victory on a sad day for the ward”.
Small victory on a sad day for the ward.@wrexham pic.twitter.com/uYHlGd3rEZ
— AndyGinRhosnesni (@andygrhosnesni) September 28, 2022
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