CHANGING landscapes and development are an inevitable part of a growing population.
But more communities are coming together to submit applications to councils to grant village green status for open areas, protecting the land from development.
In Bolton, there have been a number of applications in recent years including Great Lever, Farnworth and Horwich and, nationally, the figure is increasing.
However the government has submitted a bill which, if passed, would change the law on registering land as a town or village green.
Nationally, the Open Spaces Society helped 34 areas register successful village green status applications from 2010 to 2012.
Nicola Hodgson, case officer for the society, said: “People who are members of the society can get assistance throughout the application process.
“We explain how much evidence they will need and what the process is about.
“Obviously, at the moment, there’s a huge issue with the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. It’s now in the House of Lords and it’s just about to go to the committee stage.
“The society has put in amendments to try to reduce the impact of what is being proposed as, if it goes through as it stands, it will make it more difficult for people to safeguard their green spaces.
“People may be thinking, this is the last chance if the law changes.
“They are also becoming more aware and more concerned about protecting something which is special to them.
“Usually it’s communities getting together and working to try and get the evidence from people who have used the land, to put in an application.”
In August last year, an application to protect the field in Cedar Avenue, Horwich, was handed to Bolton Council.
It was compiled after three residents’ associations, Claypool, Brazley and New Chapel, joined forces to object to possible plans to build homes there.
They submitted it after discovering the land had been earmarked for housing by the council in the draft allocation plan, which identifies sites across the borough which could be built on in the next 15 years.
Jim Smith, of Brazley Residents’ Association, said: “It’s always been an open space, it’s been used by various groups, it seemed a shame. People were leafleted and they all signed a petition to keep it as a village green.
“From what I can gather, the council has taken it off the draft allocation plan and it’s now going through to be recognised as a village green.
“The residents are very pleased because it’s a valuable piece of open space.
“I think it’s like anything else, sooner or later somebody is going to have to say enough is enough.
“You can’t keep on developing these areas because you get to the problem of where do the youngsters go and play?”
The 72-year-old grandfather, of Gloucester Avenue, Horwich, added: “It’s the old adage — when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
And people living near land in Highfield Road, Farnworth, also launched a bid to have the green space transformed into a village green after plans were submitted to build 13 houses on it.
Other residents’ groups have also launched campaigns against plans to build homes on green spaces.
These include people living near land between Waggon Road, Winchester Way and Mobberley Road, in Breightmet Great Places Housing Group has submitted plans to build the houses on the land and says the two hectare field is “infrequently used” and socially rented homes are needed.
But campaigner and Winchester Way resident Beverley Roscoe said building on the land would destroy a well-utilised green space.
The government says the plans in the Growth Bill will ensure communities that wish to see land developed in their areas will no longer be overruled by what it calls “an abuse of Town and Village Green legislation”.
A clause in the bill states local people will no longer be able to register a piece of land as a village green if any developers have applied for permission to build.
Owen Paterson, environ-ment secretary, said: “Town and village greens are cherished community spaces and it’s absolutely right they continue to have the strongest protection.
“Yet the system can be abused to stop developments like affordable housing from being built.
“We’re stamping down on the abuse of this law that can effectively shut local communities out of deciding what development is right for them. This Government has a vital mission to support growth and spread aspiration, and these new plans will help that to happen.”
The Open Spaces Society said there were about 185 applications for new village greens, in 2009, compared with about 400,000 planning applications.
The Friends of Walmersley Village (FOWV) has submitted an application to Bury Council which, if approved, would create Bury’s first village green at the open space at Springside Road adjacent to Christ Church Walmersley.
Steve Tilbrook, from FOWV, said: “The church wants to sell their field for development. We have offered alternative ways to the church to raise the funds they need, while keeping the field a green space.
“If it’s lost, it’s going to change the character of the village. That field has been in the heart of the village for 100 years.”
In July 2011, plans for a new building for Clarendon Primary School, Clarendon Street, Great Lever, were halted after an application was submitted to grant the land earmarked for develop-ment village green status. But the scheme was given the go-ahead in October.