Last-ditch fight to save Wigwam from housing

Vera Malcolm

Vera Malcolm

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NEW life has been breathed into the seemingly dead-and-buried fight to save the Wigwam Lane playing fields in Hucknall from housing development.

For the Dispatch can reveal the shock news that a fresh public inquiry is looming which could stop the project in its tracks.

Dozens of the 800 homes planned for the landmark site have already been built.

Work is now progressing fast on a prominent pocket of housing by Barratt Homes that will feature 77 properties, plus a spine road built into the site from Wigwam Lane.

But the bulldozers and cement mixers might have to be switched off soon.

For it has been disclosed that a five-day public hearing is set for March on the latest bid to secure ‘village green’ status for the Wigwam which, if successful, would prevent development and protect it as open green space for the public.

The driving force behind the long-running campaign is battling Hucknall grandmother Vera Malcolm (83), of Leadale Avenue.

“I think this is the last shot,” said Vera. “I have always said that I won’t let go of this fight until I have to.

“Hucknall residents need to sit up and take notice again. I always said that I wouldn’t just give up. I am determined to fight this until the very end.

“This is all a matter of what is right. This land was given for the benefit of Hucknall, especially children. It was never meant for housing.”

The whole of the Wigwam site and the adjoining Grange Farm is being developed by three companies — David Wilson Homes, Bellway and Barratt.

It will eventually be known in its entirety as Papplewick Green.

Dozens of homes have already been built off Papplewick Lane by David Wilson and Bellway as the forerunner to Papplewick Green. These properties, most of which have been up almost two years, would be exempt from the ‘village green’ status.

But should the application be granted, Barratt would have to stop work and pull down any houses it has erected in the latest works. Other planned sections of the development would also be blocked.

The new ‘village green’ bid is a revival of a failed application in 2007, which prompted a public inquiry led by a government inspector. It was decided that the site did not qualify for ‘village green’ status, which hinged on whether the Wigwam had been used informally by the community ‘as of right’ for the last 20 years.

In 2008, a decision by a judge not to allow a judicial review into the verdict seemingly brought the curtain down on the campaign to save the Wigwam.

After the decision, the former Cofton development group and the building firms were given the full go-ahead to construct homes on the Wigwam and the adjoining Grange Farm under Ashfield District Council’s Local Plan.

On the latest bid for ‘village green’ status, Barratt East Midlands’ managing director, Mark Wright, said: “This matter should finally be resolved at the end of March, so until then, we have decided not to build any more houses.

“This is regrettable, given it is the largest housing site in Ashfield, with high demand for dwellings locally.

“A number of community facilities are to be delivered through the scheme, including a new primary school and sports pitches, which are now on hold and in jeopardy. It is vital the ‘village green’ issue is settled at the earliest opportunity.”

The campaign to save the Wigwam originally started back in 1997 but gathered full momentum in 2006.

Mrs Malcolm launched her ‘village green’ campaign after the Dispatch exclusively reported on the existence of a 1938 covenant, stipulating that the Wigwam was only to be used for recreation or open space.

The former owner of the playing fields, Emily Ada Story, insisted on the covenant when she sold the land to Notts County Council, who went on to sell the 13.5-acre site to Cofton for £5.3 million.