Hatfield resident wins fight to protect much-loved beauty spot

PUBLISHED: 11:53 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:03 10 August 2017

Mark Lampert and Valerie Dorantt at Bunchleys Pond in Hatfield, that is now classified as a village green. Picture credit: Tim Crawley.

Mark Lampert and Valerie Dorantt at Bunchleys Pond in Hatfield, that is now classified as a village green. Picture credit: Tim Crawley.

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A Hatfield resident who has been fighting for five years to get a popular pond land reclassified as a village green has finally won the battle, which means it can no longer be developed on.

Bunchleys Pond in Hatfield. Picture Credit: Mark Lampert. Bunchleys Pond in Hatfield. Picture Credit: Mark Lampert.

For five years Mark Lampert, 52, of Bishops Rise, has been fighting to get Bunchleys Pond, which sits at the end of a footpath leading off of Travellers Lane, village green status.

On July 20, 2017, by a unanimous vote, on the recommendation of a planning inspector, Hertfordshire County County (HCC) registered the pond and the land leading up to it as a Town or Village Green under section 15(2) of the Commons Act 2006.

In 2012 the gardener watched a patch of land in London Colney be granted village green status, seeing some similarities between it and Bunchleys, he decided to try and get the same status for the pond.

To claim the area as a village green Mr Lampert needed to show that the area had been used by residents for 20 years, and that people had been using the land freely without entering by force, asking a landowners permission, or that they hadn’t been denied permission.

Bunchleys Pond, in Hatfield, and Mark Lampert's dog Spike enjoying his surroundings. Picture Credit: Mark Lampert. Bunchleys Pond, in Hatfield, and Mark Lampert's dog Spike enjoying his surroundings. Picture Credit: Mark Lampert.

With help from residents and their evidence that they had been using the land a claim was made in April 2013 to get the land village green status.

In June 2015 two of the landowners, The Hortons who own a small fraction of the pond and Homes and Communities who own the bulk of the land, submitted formal objections to the claim. HCC who also own part of the land didn’t object.

Assisted by Valerie Dorantt, Mr Lampert sent rebuttals to their objections and in January 2017 it was decided that the claim would be heard by a planning inspector at a full public inquiry in May.

Mr Lampert told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “For the inquiry I set about gathering heaps more evidence, through Facebook, Welwyn Hatfield Times, by collaring folk on the street or up by the pond, I needed more statements from locals.

“Valerie set to collating all of the evidence and pored through countless previous village green judgements to find legal precedents to support our claim.”

Together the pair put together 1,300 pages of witness statements, testimonials and more. Mr Lampert also lined up 12 witnesses to give evidence at the inquiry.

But before the inquiry took place both landowners withdrew their objections.

Mr Lampert said: “Then finally in June I was notified that Bunchleys would be registered as a town or village green. I cried and so did Val.”

This now means that the area around the pond cannot be developed on, or have anything injurious done on it, and that the residents of Hatfield now have the right to wander around the area as they always have done.

Mr Lampert added: “Together as a community we did it, just like we beat the incinerator.

“It’s all about perseverance, about a community coming together and getting something sorted, and protecting something that they value.

“I had absolutely no idea what this would entail when I started, I didn’t know the first thing about village green law, I wouldn’t know a legal bundle if you’d hit me in the face with it. I knew it’d take a while, but not five years.

“Valerie has been an absolute star, without her help this would have been an awful lot harder.”

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