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Community Meeting, Greenfields United Church, 2017 to discuss legal action (hundreds of meetings took place to discuss the campaign and fund raise, every decision went to a community vote)

The Greenfields Community Group, while campaigning to protect its local park from development, secured a landmark ruling at the Supreme Court March 2023 for the protection of green spaces in the UK. 

The Campaign

In 2017, a section of Greenfields Recreation Ground was sold by Shrewsbury town council to a developer for high-end housing. It did it without consulting the community or even advertising the proposed sale, despite there being a legal requirement to do so. 

 “It’s like someone coming along and selling off a part of your garden to build and not checking if it was theirs to sell off, or asking you about it,” said Marion Curtis, part of the campaigning Greenfields Community Group, made up of 300 residents. “That’s what made me really angry.” 

 Local residents began a campaign to save their park. They launched a legal challenge to their Town Council after all the usual means of objection had failed. To support the effort, local people raised money and undertook research. 

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Supreme Court 2023 – GCG representatives

These sorts of things only happen in films and being shortlisted adds to the out-of-this-world-ness that is happening to a group of residents, who wanted to save their park and ended up in the Supreme Court. It gives us not only credibility that we are right but energy to continue to fight for the rights of those who are ignored. Many communities are now seeking and getting our support. GCG’s campaign shows that everybody – neighbours and communities – can challenge the powerful and win.”

awards

Supreme Court 2023 – GCG representatives

These sorts of things only happen in films and being shortlisted adds to the out-of-this-world-ness that is happening to a group of residents, who wanted to save their park and ended up in the Supreme Court. It gives us not only credibility that we are right but energy to continue to fight for the rights of those who are ignored. Many communities are now seeking and getting our support. GCG’s campaign shows that everybody – neighbours and communities – can challenge the powerful and win.”

The Change

A group of residents trying to save their park ended up in the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court found in their favour March 2023. It quashed the planning permission and warned other councils to safeguard their green spaces for the rights of their communities for generations to come. Greenfields Recreation Ground changed the law for all other parks.  

 The judgement said:  

 “If, as a result of this appeal, other local authorities and parish councils decide to…take stock of how they acquired and now hold the pleasure grounds, public walks and open spaces that they make available to the public to enjoy then that, in my judgment, would be all to the good.” 

 GCG’s campaign confirmed that any sale of land held by public authorities in trust for the public benefit is just that – a sale does not extinguish the trust and does not get around the restrictions and conditions that apply.  

 Across the country, councils are making up funding shortfalls – and attempting to meet the need for new homes – by selling off pockets of land meant for the public. It is estimated that nearly half of public land in Britain has been sold off since the 1970s.  

The Future

In making Greenfields Recreation Ground a jewel in the crown, the community wants to highlight the short-term folly of its local council in disposing of such a precious community resource, a public asset, and continues to challenge the culture of denial and a baked-in unwillingness to deal with past failures and obvious errors of public administration.  

Since the Supreme Court judgement, the community’s vision has quite simply outpoured. Proposals have already been made for a sensory garden, a community orchard, edible borders, nature reserve, and tennis court. The vision of the community for the community is unlimited.  

Who else was involved?

There are more than 100 residents in the community email group, more than 400 followers on Facebook, and 420 on Twitter.

The key residents are Dr Peter Day (Chair); Alyson Lanning (Vice Chair); Colin Harper (Treasurer/ Fundraiser) and Tony Smith (Fundraiser)