North Norfolk campaigners vow to carry on

Campaigners who lost their fight to have land around a ruined north Norfolk water mill registered as a village green have vowed to battle on.

Residents at Briggate, near North Walsham, learned last month that their application for the land near Briggate Mill, had been rejected because an inspector leading a public inquiry into the matter, felt they had not proved locals had been using the site for sports and pastimes throughout a 20-year period.

The tiny community, of just 36 homes, mounted the bid three years ago, after alleged attempts at land grabbing around the mill whose ownership is unclear.

But Diana Howes, who made the village green application, backed by dozens of other villagers, has pledged to keep fighting to ensure the site is protected from possible future land-grabbers.

She said: 'We are going to try and keep the area tidy and encourage wildlife there, make it into a kind of nature reserve, and put up nesting boxes and things like that.

'Everyone in the village feels very strongly about it.'

At the public inquiry, despite evidence from 13 villagers who sought to prove that the land had been used for activities including walking, picnicking, kite-flying, painting, birdwatching and horseriding between 1984 and 2004, the planning inspector decided that by about 1994 the area was so overgrown only a rough track was reasonably accessible, which meant the community could only have been using the land as a right of way rather than a village green.

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Mrs Howes said now the plan was to do clear up work the first Sunday of every month and also to work alongside the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust who are carrying out work nearby on the mill pond.

She said the hope was the villagers may, after a certain number of years cultivating and looking after the land, be able to claim possession of it.

County councillor Paul Morse, who has been a keen supporter of the villagers, said: 'Briggate is very important to me, this is about a local community looking after a resource that is very dear to them, about that community taking control of their local environment and preserving their heritage, and I will do everything I can to help them.'