Public open spaces in Harborough district village are overgrown and fenced off

Land that was set aside for sport and recreation has been fenced off and become overgrown after it was sold by a developer.

Councillors and officers from Harborough District Council fielded questions from residents about the laws surrounding the green spaces.

Areas in Cordonnier Close, Pinel Close, Machin Drive, Geveze Way and Netherfield Close, that were designated as public open space, were sold at auction by the estate’s developer, Jelson, last year.

Residents accused the council of not putting the right conditions in place when planning permission was granted for the estate and asked representatives at the meeting why the council had not taken control of the plots.

A hand out prepared and distributed by the authority at the meeting said: “The council has tried to liaise with Jelson since 2002 to adopt the open space but could not agree terms.

“Negotiations in 2009, 2010 and 2011 involved directors from Jelson and the head of service from Harborough District Council.”

Since the sale the new owners of the Cordonnier Close plot have erected a fence around the land.

Speaking at the meeting, a Cordonnier Close resident said: “We have to look at a six foot high fence every day.

“We used to look at green space, somewhere children could and did play.

“I phoned the council the morning the fence was being put up and six months later it’s still there.

“That land was marked up in the auction papers as public open space, how can it be that with a six foot fence around it?”

The council has issued a planning enforcement notice ordering the owner to remove the fence but the owner has appealed and the case is now awaiting investigation by the planning inspectorate.

Christine Zacharia, planning enforcement team leader at Harborough District Council, said: “Any change of use will require planning permission.

“We have issued the enforcement notice but the owner has the right to appeal which they’ve exercised.

“It’s been six months and the planning inspectorate have only just validated it.

“My advice to residents is to get your objections in before the deadline of June 8.”

Councillor Mark Graves added: “The council wouldn’t take costly enforcement action if it wasn’t confident it would win.

“We’re alarmed that the fence is still there, I can’t believe that this situation has arisen.”

The plots are protected against development as they are listed as sites for open space sport and recreation.

Earlier this year, residents in Pinel Close received a letter from the land’s owners offering each household £250 to support a planning application for 12 houses on the site.

A second letter to residents withdrew the offer because “the £250 could be misconstrued as a bribe rather than compensation for loss of amenity space”.

Residents at the meeting complained that the grass on that plot and others as  has been left to grow to waist height.

They also said that building waste and household rubbish has been fly-tipped on some of the land.

Representatives from the council recommended residents report any issues to the council so they can be logged, but explained that the council cannot mow the grass as the land is privately owned.

Jelson was invited to send a representative to the meeting but declined.

Amy Orton, Local Democracy Reporting Service