Q&A: Bristol row over town green at Ashton Vale

Mock up of new stadium
Image caption The council has promised a quick decision on the town green application

A decision on an application for a town green which could thwart a new football stadium in Bristol will be made in the next month.

An independent inspector ruled in September 2010 that land at Ashton Vale should be protected.

But the final decision now rests with Bristol City Council, which has promised to make a decision soon.

Here are the main issues behind the application, who will make the decision and what the next moves could be.

What is a town green and how can somebody register one?

Any piece of land can be registered as a town green provided it has been regularly used for either sport or recreation for at least the past 20 years.

Applications for town greens are mostly used to protect open spaces, especially in cities. But it also has obvious advantages to anybody who wants to stop building work taking place near to their homes.

A council has to advertise that an application has been registered and if there are any objections hold an inquiry, often with an independent inspector.

If successful the land would be registered as a town or village green under the Inclosure Act 1857 and Commons Act 1876 and nobody would be allowed to build on it.

Why have residents applied to make Ashton Vale a town green?

Residents claim they have made the application to protect the green belt land from development while others suspect it is nothing more than a move to block the construction of a stadium on their doorstep.

The Ashton Vale Heritage group said that despite many members' "love of their local football team" there is "more to life than football and commercial developments". The group suggests the motive for the application is down to protecting green belt land on the edge of the city.

They add: "Campaigning to keep the natural green space and fields would have happened whatever development had been proposed."

Has the club got planning permission?

Bristol City FC was given the green light to build the stadium in October 2009. The application for the town green was made earlier that month.

If the council decides to back the application for a town green it would effectively over-ride the planning permission and mean the football club could not build on Ashton Vale.

Why has the council said it will now make a quick decision?

The first plans for the stadium were revealed in 2007. It has taken since September 2010, when the inspector's recommendation was first made, to get to this point.

After the local elections, the Liberal Democrats group lost its majority rule at Bristol City Council and has been forced into offering concessions to remain as a minority administration.

On Tuesday, leader Barbara Janke announced a quick decision on the town green application would be one of them.

Who will make the final decision at the council?

The group that is supposed to make the decision is the Public Rights of Way and Greens Committee which meets on 16 June.

One of the options available to that committee is to refer the decision to full council on 21 June.

When the decision is made by the council, is that it?

It is very unlikely this will be the last we hear of the matter. The losing side has the chance to challenge the decision through a judicial review in the High Court.

For the case to be referred, Bristol City Council said "an applicant would have to prove that the council has acted illegally, unfairly or irrationally or disproportionately".

Both sides have said they would take up the option of going to the High Court, so whatever decision is made by council it is likely not to be the final say on the issue.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites