No Protection For Common Should Be Of Concern To All Of Us

PUBLISHED: 17:51 01 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:54 04 May 2010

THE news that Ely Common is unlikely to be protected as a Village Green (Ely Standard May 23) should be a cause of profound concern to us all. After hundreds of years of local people using this treasured community asset, one of the Common s owners hasn t

THE news that Ely Common is unlikely to be protected as a Village Green (Ely Standard May 23) should be a cause of profound concern to us all. After hundreds of years of local people using this treasured community asset, one of the Common's owners hasn't even waited for the county council's official assessment of the inspector's report before confirming to district councilors that "there is therefore very limited public access to the grassland between Kiln Lane and Ely Sailing Club".

In her report on our application, the inspector concluded that together, the evidence of dozens of Ely people met nearly all the criteria for Village Green status. She was satisfied that enough people, from a distinct enough locality, have used both parts of the Common, for long enough, and for a sufficiently wide range of "lawful sports and pastimes". But she recommended rejection of our application on what seems to us to be an extraordinary technicality: we failed to exercise our right to use the land at haymaking time, when people kept out of the way of the mower, and walked around rather than through the piles of cut grass. The inspector concluded "They could have chosen to walk in front of the tractor or to walk across the lying lines of hay, but they did not." That, it seems, is enough to argue that we didn't use the Common "as of right", and so in her view it does not qualify as a Village Green.

So what next? Vigilance is needed. We can only note that the other owner of the Common is The Thomas Parsons Charity. We are well aware of its historic role in Ely in protecting the interests of the needy and - particularly - the elderly. Any development on this land which reduced its amenity value to these very people would - surely - run contrary to the charity's long-held principles. Perhaps it is time for the trustees to make a public statement about these matters so that we can look to the long-term future of this area with greater confidence - especially as the Common is an integral part of the proposals for a country park and for the Ely wildspace.

ANDREW BALMFORD

Chairman of Local Campaigners for the Protection of Rural Ely

Cartoon: courtesy of Hilary van de Watering

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