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Redcar case could set green space precedent

Campaigners hoping to save a seafront open space in Redcar from a £55m housing development have won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court.

Friends of Coatham Common, a pressure group organised by five locals, fought a six-year battle that has finally ended with the council being ordered to register the land as a town or village green - a move that safeguards its future.

It thought that the unanimous decision by the five Justices could have major ramifications for green campaigners across the country, with lawyers indicating that the custom of precedent could judges rule against similar developments in future.

The group managed to save the common by demonstrating “as of right” that they had used the plot for leisure pursuits for the last 20 years, and in doing so prevented the council from approving the development.

Group organisers were said to be ecstatic at the deal, especially after previous judgements by the High Court and the Court of Appal found in favour of the local authority, arguing that although the land had been used for sport, people had “deferred” to players when it was used as a golf course.

Speaking in his ruling, Lord Walker said he found it “difficult” to see how a land owner would have decided the local population were not asserting a right to take recreation on the land “simply because they normally showed civility - or in the inspector’s word, deference - towards members of the golf club”.

Andrew Lockley, head of public Law at Irwin Mitchell, who represented the campaigners, said: “This victory means that other groups who want to use green space and preserve it from development will find it easier to do so.”