Delight as Sun Corner in Billericay is safe for town at last
FIVE years after it first tried to secure Sun Corner, Billericay Town Council has finally triumphed.
Fields in Trust, which is behind the playing fields scheme, confirmed the Deed of Dedication has been signed, much to the delight of town council chairman councillor John Buchanan.
Mr Buchanan has also seen a copy of the land registry document with the amendment stipulating that Sun Corner cannot be developed.
He said: "It is fantastic news. The town council has been trying for several years to achieve this.
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"I can't say how pleased I am."
The six-hectare green space, the majority of which is owned by Essex County Council, but maintained by Basildon Borough Council, has never had any formal proposal for development.
But having seen other green spaces in the borough sold off for housing, the town council wanted to secure the future of Sun Corner for the residents.
The land was left to the people of Billericay in the 1930s by a farmer.
It went into public ownership and fell under the aegis of the County Council.
"The people of Billericay were very suspicious that democratic control wasn't enough," said Mr Buchanan.
"As development land, it would be worth millions of pounds."
The idea of the playing field status is to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, but it needed the landowner – the county council – to make the application at the suggestion of the town council.
Given the county council's previous objection to Sun Corner gaining village green status, a move that would have also protected it against development, there was not much optimism the authority would accept the playing field scheme.
"We weren't that optimistic when we made the application to the county council," said Mr Buchanan, "but on this occasion they said 'yes, it would be a great idea'."
The new status means Sun Corner is the only Queen Elizabeth II playing field in Essex owned by the county council.
A celebration is being planned for later in the year and the Woodland Trust will also provide 100 oak saplings to create a new Jubilee Wood on Sun Corner.
County council chairman, Kay Twitchen, said: "It's absolutely brilliant. We've been working on this for a long time.
"I wanted Sun Corner secured from development. The problem was village-green status effectively sterilises the land.
"No one wants to build on it, but if you want any parking barriers, or goalposts, you'd have to get permission from the Secretary of State.
"Playing-field status means that if you want to put goalposts on it, for example, you go to the Fields in Trust and it will look at it, so long as it's for public use."