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Clash over bid to safeguard gardens

PUBLISHED: 16:01 12 May 2010 | UPDATED: 11:41 23 August 2010

FEARS: Concerns over the future of St Andrew’s Gardens.

FEARS: Concerns over the future of St Andrew's Gardens.

A PROTEST group and the borough council have clashed once again as the application to turn grassland into a town green was heard. Urban Gravesham is applying to get St Andrew s Gardens, in Gravesend town centre, turned into a town green. The group objec

A PROTEST group and the borough council have clashed once again as the application to turn grassland into a town green was heard.

Urban Gravesham is applying to get St Andrew's Gardens, in Gravesend town centre, turned into a town green.

The group object to the planned redevelopment of the Heritage Quarter in Gravesend and the fight has centred on the fate of St Andrew's Gardens, which Urban Gravesham want legally classified as a town green to prevent it being redeveloped.

Speaking at the public inquiry at the Riverside Centre on Monday, Jonathan Clay, a prominent member of Urban Gravesham and a barrister specialising in planning law explained the reason behind the application.

He said: "The Gravesend community seeks nothing more than to continue to use the gardens as we have done for the last 60 years without the threat that they will be sold off for development."

For a piece of land to become a 'green' it must be shown to have been used by a significant number of people as a public space for lawful games and pastimes for at least 20 years.

Should it be granted it would make developing the land illegal unless a complicated process of removing town green status was successful.

Council leader Mike Snelling has spoken out against Urban Gravesham's tactics, defending Gravesham's decision to object to the move while accusing the group of being a "minority protest group" attempting to use a legal loophole "to impose their will."

He said: "It is a shame that this issue has become personalised and I felt the Bob The Builder stuff was unnecessary and childish" said Mr Snelling, referring to banners used by Urban Gravesham in protest of the plan.

"I take my action based upon officers' advice and the clear advice I have had is that any council has to resist an attempt to sterilise this land as a matter of principal as it would affect the value of the land for the council for perpetuity."

He also pointed to the fact the existing Heritage Quarter plan does not include developing the lower part of the gardens

The independent inspector, Lana Wood, heard the main argument rest on whether the land has been appropriated by the council for public walks and pleasure grounds, legally preventing it becoming a town green. Urban Gravesham argues only the riverfront section was appropriated.

A decision is expected in June.

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