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Villagers celebrate after land protected
VILLAGERS can now enjoy their green safe in the knowledge that it can not be built on after councillors gave it protected status.
The green space in the centre of Esh Winning had been the subject of plans for a new school in 2009, sparking an application to have it officially designated village green.
Durham County Council agreed to build the school elsewhere but villagers pushed ahead with their application anyway in the hope of protecting it in the future.
And the council's highways committee have ended any worries the villagers may have had about future development by approving the land as village green.
Neil Carter, the council's solicitor, said the campaigners had to prove that a substantial number of local people had used the green for recreational purposes.
He said: ''The 83 letters of support show there has been very substantial use going back to the 40s and 50s with a wide range of activities taking place there including dog walking, barbecues, camping, walking, tree climbing and games such as football, cricket, golf and tennis.''
The applicants only had to prove the land had been used freely for the past 20 years and Mr Carter said two-thirds of the supporting letters covered the relevant period.
County councillor for Deerness Valley John Wilkinson, who is chairman of the Friends of Esh Winning Village Green and submitted the application, said the land had been used for recreation for decades.
He said: ''When the council houses were erected between 1948 and 1954 this grassy space was left there for the use of villagers of all ages to enjoy, and it has been used for every activity possible. We always believed it was meant for our use.''
Councillor Wilkinson submitted the application to turn the land into village green in 2009 and said since then it has become even more important it is protected.
He said: ''This is the only piece of central green space left in our village. '' It is precious and needs safe-guarding, we have been calling this land our green for years and years.''