CAMPAIGNERS: Mandale Meadow campaigners delve into archives
Middlesbrough campaigners who are against the removal of the covenant on Mandale Meadow, Image: Sue Martin
Campaigners have been digging into the archives to try and protect Mandale Meadow from a controversial spine road.
Graham Hadfield, Adrian Walker, Jackie Young, and Janice Slater have been looking into the restrictive covenant that was on Mandale Meadow, which was removed from the green space in 2018 by Middlesbrough Council.
They are concerned that the removal of the covenant leaves the meadow at risk of developers building a spine road, though planning permission will still have to be granted.
The plans for the road are currently being reviewed after the council’s executive decided to delay a vote, which has still not happened, on the 1,670-home Stainsby masterplan earlier this year.
Graham has been looking through archive minutes from council meetings as far back as the 1940s.
He said that the land was initially bought by Teesside County Borough Council in 1968 and 1972 before Middlesbrough Council obtained the land in 1983.
In an application to the Land Registry to remove the covenant the council argued that the restriction on the land was a personal covenant between Cleveland County Council and Middlesbrough Council.
However, Graham believes that historic council minutes show that this land was always intended to be green public open space for the benefit of the people of Middlesbrough.
He said that the minutes from a council meeting in 1983 stated: “That Site 1 at Whinney Banks (i.e Mandale Meadow) be transferred to Middlesbrough Borough Council subject to a restrictive covenant that the land shall only be used for public open space.”
Therefore, campaigners think the council has made a mistake by removing the covenant and believe the local authority has a responsibility to ensure it is kept as open space.
Middlesbrough Council disagrees with this interpretation.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The land was transferred to Middlesbrough Borough Council from Middlesbrough Corporation who were transferred it from Cleveland County Council.
“It was not for the ‘specific purpose’ of open space. It is open space because of the Open Spaces Act 1906, not because of any covenant.”
It went on to add: “There has been no mistake.”
“It would just devastate that land”
Graham is concerned about the impact of the proposed spine road on the wildlife in the area.
He added: “I would like to see them reinstate the covenant and they should not put a road through Mandale Meadow.
“The road will destroy the meadow, the trees around it. It would devastate Bluebell Beck and there are endangered flora and fauna, you get butterflies, moths, you also get deer in the woods.
“There are also endangered orchids. It would just devastate that land.”
Another campaigner, Gill Sullivan, 64, who lives in Acklam, is worried about the loss of trees, especially at a time when the council is trying to plant more.
She said: “They are planting all these trees, but they are going to take 30 to 50 years to grow and my generation won’t even be here and we need to save these mature green spaces and their trees now.
“Once it’s gone there’s no more. I want that field to be there for the children of the future. My children were brought up on it, we are bringing the grandchildren up on it.
“Mandale Meadow should be saved for the health of future generations and the planet.
“Middlesbrough Council would do well to connect with their residents over green issues because they do not understand the importance of them to residents.”
Jackie Young, who founded Community Champions Middlesbrough, is also against the removal of the covenant.
She added: “Having spent a number of years looking at documents in relation to the meadows and with further valuable investigations from members of Community Champions Middlesbrough, I cannot see a good enough reason why the covenant has been removed.”
She went on to add: “The world is changing and the council planning department, developers, housebuilders, general public, mayor, executive and ward councillors can make the changes needed, it can be done, it’s a challenge but one that can be achievable if everyone works together.”
At a council meeting in September, Mayor Andy Preston said that he was not convinced the road was vital.
He added: “I am not ready and I don’t think the exec team is ready to explicitly endorse the building of a new road through a greenfield site until we are certain that it’s absolutely necessary.”
Middlesbrough Council has previously said that any planning application submitted will require an ecological assessment which will provide a full evaluation of the biodiversity and ecological value of the site, as well as flagging any detrimental impacts of development.
“The Council, where it owns land, can do with that land as anyone else may do with land they own”
The four campaigners also believe that the mention of the Open Spaces Act 1906 – when the land was being transferred in 1983 – is relevant and was included to support the restrictive covenant.
They also think that council consultation with residents, when the covenant was being taken off the land, did not go far enough and should have taken into account more people who use the meadow.
In response, a council spokesperson said: “The Council, where it owns land, can do with that land as anyone else may do with land they own.”
The council added that prior to sale or other, as it is Open Space, the Local Authority must advertise its intention to do so in accordance with S123 of the Local Government Act 1972.
Therefore, the council must give notice of the land they wish to dispose of, specify which section of land it is, advertise this in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks and consider any objections.
The LGA 1972 also states: “Where a Council dispose of land which is held in accordance with S10 of the Open Spaces Act 1906 the land shall by virtue of the disposal be freed from any trust arising solely by virtue of it being land held in trust for enjoyment by the public in accordance with the said section 10.”
A council spokesperson added: “In June 2018, Middlesbrough Council initiated the process regarding the Public Open Space and Land Appropriation (Attached Notices).
“This process gave notice to the public of the Council’s intention to dispose of and re-appropriate the land at Mandale/Rear of Heythorpe Drive, Acklam, Middlesbrough.
“Notices were placed around the site with 28 days allowed for comments/objections/representations. The statutory notices were also advertised in the Evening Gazette. Therefore fulfilling any duty under s.123 Local Government Act 1972.”
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV