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Law students help local residents on community land project
A group of legal students from the University of Sussex are helping local people safeguard and protect a piece of beloved community land as part of a StreetLaw project to get students involved in community matters.
Sussex Law School students have handed Westdene residents a plan detailing what can be done legally to protect Redhill Playing Fields from the possibility of being developed on.
For years the land, which lies at the top of Redhill Close, has been the subject of various housing development applications. But with the land now in the hands of Brighton & Hove City Council, residents want to find a way of protecting it as much as is possible from future development.
The residents contacted StreetLaw Brighton, where law students conduct research for communities on legal issues, saying they wanted to protect the land from further development; keep the name of the park as Redhill Playing Fields, and not Gatton Park as suggested by previous owner developer Bellway Homes; and ensure the upkeep of the park now it is back in council hands.
Michael Whitty, Chairman of the Westdene and Withdean Community Association, said: “The enthusiasm and commitment given by the law undergraduates at the University of Sussex is unquestionably invaluable.
“As local residents working on a voluntary basis we would have struggled to provide the high level, intelligent and informative report provided by the students and tutors. I hope we do justice to the work they have done, and we manage to protect the site from building development in perpetuity.”
Local ward councillor Nick Taylor has given his backing to the residents and University, saying they can count on his support.
He added: “It is good to see that local residents are benefiting from having a world class university on their doorstep. Residents and ward councillors have fought for years to preserve this much loved green space. It is clear there is no appetite for further development on this land and we must do everything we can to preserve it.”
The students’ carried out thorough research and their report highlights a number of legal avenues the residents can take, including:
- Ensuring the playing fields are given special community protection a ‘Local Designated Green Space’ through local and neighbourhood planning;
- Registering the land as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, where the community can buy the land if the owner wants to sell;
- Applying to the council to name the park Redhill Playing Fields;
- Set up a Rubbish Collection Volunteering Scheme to ensure the park is looked after and maintained.
Dr Lucy Finchett-Maddock, a law lecturer at the University who leads the students’ research work, said: “Redhill Playing Fields is an extremely important community asset and the residents were very keen on finding a way of protecting it.
“Through StreetLaw, our students have carried out wide ranging research and discovered a variety of ways the park can be protected. We have presented our findings to the residents who are as a result far better legally informed and who can now feel empowered to proceed in findings ways of safeguarding the land.
“Getting involved in a community project like this not only benefits local people, it also makes sure our students learn from the experience and furthers their education.”