Law students help Brighton residents protect park

Posted On 11 Apr 2017 at 5:51 pm

A group of law students from Sussex University is helping people living by a Brighton park with a project to protect the site.

The Sussex Law School students have handed a community group a plan setting out the legal options to safeguard Redhill Playing Fields in Redhill Close, Westdene.

The land has been the subject of a number of planning applications to build houses.

Residents contacted Street Law Brighton, a scheme where law students carry out research for communities on legal issues.

They said that they wanted to protect the land from further development and keep the name of the park as Redhill Playing Fields – not Gatton Park as suggested by previous owner developer Bellway Homes.

They also wanted to ensure the upkeep of the park now that it has been handed over to Brighton and Hove City Council.

Westdene and Withdean Community Association chairman Michael Whitty said: “The enthusiasm and commitment given by the law undergraduates at the University of Sussex is unquestionably invaluable.

Bellway Homes handing over open space to Brighton and Hove City Council at the back of its Redhill Close housing scheme. Bellway Kent managing director Chris Moore is pictured with Councillor Saoirse Horan, the deputy chair of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee – Photo by Liz Finlayson/Vervate

“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.”

Ward councillor Nick Taylor said: “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 Street Law report highlighted a number of legal options including
• Ensuring the playing fields are given special community protection as 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
• Setting up a rubbish collection volunteering scheme to ensure the park is looked after and maintained

Sussex law lecturer Lucy Finchett-Maddock, 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 Street Law, 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.”

Dr Finchett-Maddock added: “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.”

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