18th Feb, 2019

Council believe college want to sell land for development

VILLAGERS are up in arms over the future of a popular playing field.

The land in Moreton Morrell is owned by Warwickshire College Group (WCG) but has been leased to the parish council for nearly 50 years.

It is home to a children’s playground, skate park, football goals and is popular with both residents and college students.

The current 25 year contract expires at the end of September, but the parish council has been offered just a one-year renewal option.

College bosses argue the one-year extension gives both parties time to discuss long-term plans for the three-and-a-half acre plot, but the parish council says signing this could ‘compromise existing statutory rights’.

The council has described the land a as a ‘ransom strip’, believing WCG wants to secure local support for development over an adjacent plot of land it owns.

A planning application for this additional land – worth an estimated £3million – was rejected in 2016 on grounds of design, scale and lack of green space. New planning policies mean the decision can only be overturned with significant backing from the community.

Moreton Morrell Parish Council chair Anne Parry said: “The village has enjoyed a good relationship with the college in the past, but this has seriously deteriorated over the last two years.”

Coun Parry claims villagers have been denied access to historic rights of way, been blamed for vandalism to college property and even subject to alleged assaults within college grounds.

WCG chief executive Angela Joyce, wrote to villagers directly to clear up any confusion.

The letter explained the one-year extension to the lease had been offered to the council to stop the field automatically reverting back to the college on October 1.

This period would give WCG and the parish council time to discuss plans – including any sales – for both the playing field and adjacent land by forming a working group.

But the parish council is unhappy with the proposal.

Coun Parry said: “Unfortunately we have been unable to agree the terms of reference for a working group meeting between the Parish Council and Warwickshire College Group.

“The parish council has now been forced to take legal action and use funds earmarked for the renewal of children’s play equipment in a bid to keep and save the playing field.”

Villagers attended a public meeting to express their concern over plans for the playing field earlier this week, but the future of the land is still undecided.

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