Therfield Heath land swap refused by Planning Inspectorate

PUBLISHED: 16:01 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:43 23 May 2018

The release land at the top of Sun Hill. Picture: David Hatton

The release land at the top of Sun Hill. Picture: David Hatton

David Hatton

The application to deregister common land on Royston's Therfield Heath and sell it off for housing has been refused by the Planning Inspectorate, it has been announced today.

The entrance of the replacement land to the west of New Road in Therfield. Picture: David HattonThe entrance of the replacement land to the west of New Road in Therfield. Picture: David Hatton

The application to deregister heathland near Sun Hill and Briary Lane – replacing it with woodland of a similar size to the west of New Road in Therfield – was initially made by The Therfield Regulation Trust in March last year.

An eight-day public inquiry concluded in February this year, with inspector Mark Yates hearing evidence from supporters and objectors.

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens, who manage the heath and also operate as trustees of TRT, gave evidence saying that the possible £1.4 million raised from selling the land would be reinvested into running costs and sporting facilities.

In the decision letter published today, Mr Yates said: “While there is uncertainty regarding the extent to which particular proposals within the draft management plan will be implemented, the intention to spend some of the funds raised by the sale of the release land on the maintenance and improvement of the common would clearly be of benefit to the neighbourhood and the public in general.

Therfield HeathTherfield Heath

“Certain proposals would assist with the preservation of the biodiversity on the common. However, in respect of the proposals for the sporting facilities, it cannot be determined to any reasonable extent whether these will be implemented and the weight to be attached to these proposals will be limited.

“I do not consider that significant weight should be attached to the provision of eight additional homes.

“The exchange itself will lead to the loss of land that has in the past been used for recreational purposes and this will impact upon those people who live in the immediate locality of the release land.

“The replacement land has a different character, but this does not necessarily make it less valuable. In landscape terms, I find the replacement land to have greater value.

“Following consideration of the potential benefits put forward in support of the application and my other conclusions regarding the release land and the replacement land, I do not find on balance that consent for an exchange of common land should be granted.”

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