Green spaces are at the heart of every community. They represent a space where people have precedence, a space where they are free from cars and concrete, where the eye is drawn to trees and skylines, not concrete and glass. A safe space for children to play, families to congregate, converse and communities to learn about each other. To remove these spaces is to segregate families into their gardens, to push children out of parks and in front of screens, to put people into their cars for journeys to green space, rather than allowing them to walk out of their house to the one on their doorstep.
Our green space has been in use for 68 years. When the Dovers Farm estate was built after the Second World War, this patch of land was left untouched by surveyor and architect, allowed to remain as an open area for the community to use as they saw fit. Originally it was decorated with flowerbeds and plaques to commemorate the sacrifices made by servicemen from New Zealand, a commemorative stone being laid by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand.
This space has offered itself up as a football pitch, cricket pitch, picnic area, as a place where children could play under the watch of a close-knit community. Street parties celebrating the life of Her Majesty the Queen have been held there, charities have used the space to hold events, and throughout its history the community has enjoyed it simply for its openness, exercising their pets and stretching their own legs. The local authority itself has used the space for community events, which surely puts them in agreement with the community about the value of the space.
When we as a community received notice that our council, our representatives, wanted to take away this green space from us, we were dismayed. Many people are accustomed to getting the letter about a planning application and feeling that there is no point in fighting it, especially when the council that will decide the application is the same one that is seeking permission to build.
We chose to fight. We organised, packed out meetings, signed petitions and wrote letters of objection. We filled the public gallery at the town hall and cheered when the application was voted down by every councillor at the meeting.
After the meeting, our local councillors warned us against complacency. The planning application had been defeated, but it had not gone away, it would most likely be back in an amended, watered-down form which might yet get through the planning process. We gathered together as a community and decided that we would apply for Village Green status for our open space, to secure it as a resource for our children and grandchildren. To make sure that no matter how many flats and houses spring up where once there were garages, tower blocks, or car parks, that our trees and fields will remain open for use.
If you would like to know more, or to get involved, the Dovers Farm Estate Village Green Committee can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org