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NHS Property Services in legal action after council registers land as village green

NHS Property Services is to seek leave to apply for judicial review of a county council’s decision to register land near a hospital as a village green.

A public inquiry about the land at Leach Grove Wood in Leatherhead was held in April 2015 following an application by a local resident, Philippa Cargill.

In September the planning and regulatory committee at Surrey County Council voted in favour of registering the land, which is close to Leatherhead Community Hospital and owned by NHS Property Services.

The authority's Commons Registration Officer had recommended that the application be rejected.

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The planning inspector had concluded that the applicant had proved that a significant number of inhabitants indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years. However, he did not accept that the locality or neighbourhood within a locality relied upon by the applicant met the criteria required by the Commons Act 2006 to allow registration of the land as a town or village green.

In a statement a spokesman for NHS Property Services said: “The council’s decision was contrary to the recommendation of the expert inspector who presided over a five-day public inquiry convened last year to investigate the merits of the application. The decision also contradicted the council officer’s own recommendation.

“NHS Property Services’ grounds for challenging the council’s decision include that the council has not followed the correct processes in going against these expert recommendations reached at and outside the inquiry.
“There are no current plans to change the use of the land. However, on behalf of the NHS, we need to retain the flexibility to use the land for the benefit of patients.”

A Surrey County Council spokesman said: "We considered all the evidence put to us and felt the criteria for Leach Grove Wood to be given village green status was met so we are robustly defending our decision." 

Leatherhead’s county councillor Tim Hall told the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser: "I think it's outrageous that they [the NHS] are spending taxpayers' money using expensive lawyers to try and overturn a well-researched decision.

"They have completely ignored and neglected this area for many years and now they're trying to fight a decision which was made carefully and was well thought-out.

"I think this should be fought to the bitter end and I will support the residents 100%."

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