Early finish expected for Ashfield inquiry

Ashfield Park, Standish

Ashfield Park, Standish

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A PUBLIC inquiry to decide whether Ashfield Park in Standish will be given Village Green (VG) status is expected to finish early.

On day two of the hearing on Wednesday, the opposing sides were invited to give their closing statements after the objector, Wigan Council, chose not to dispute evidence given by the applicant’s witnesses.

Gareth Fairhurst, who is a ward councillor for Standish and the spearhead behind the Save Ashfield Park campaign, had been expected to call on a number of witnesses to emphasise how the park had been used over a number of years for informal activities.

In order to satisfy VG criteria, he must prove residents’ use of Ashfield has been “as of right” or without express permission of the council. On the first day of the hearing, he claimed residents’ had to date been “tolerated trespassers”.

The council’s counsel, Mr Philip Petchey, said the local authority would not dispute the evidence supplied by Save Ashfield campaign because they claim any use of the park had been with permission, and therefore “by right”, negating the need for VG status.

Mr Petchey said: “If I access a park over a set of railings and not through a gate, I may not be using the mode of entrance desired by the council but that is not to say I am trespassing on the park when I am there.”

He added that the park was outlined as a “use for all” facility and not just playing fields available for hire by a committee resolution in 1993.

The Save Ashfield campaign believes town hall bosses have misled residents about whether they have considered housing developments on the green space and want VG status to protect the park.

Coun Fairhurst will be giving his final submissions later today.

The hearing is being chaired by barrister Alan Evans who will write a report advising the council of the recommended course of action but will not make the decision himself. It had been expected to continue through to Friday.