Many of us have used Mirrlees fields for years, our children have played there, we have exercised there, walked our dogs, taken in the fresh air and enjoyed the wildlife. During the Covid19 pandemic it became even more important than ever. But it has always been on borrowed time, it’s always been clear that the land is privately owned and that by being there without the express permission of the landowner, that we were trespassing.
Over the years there has been the ongoing threat of these fields being developed, and since MAN energy solutions bought the land in 2000 and stated they did not wish to retain it, the threat has been growing. The factory was demolished, and planning permission was approved for 240 homes on its site (Brownfield), but what will become of the fields is more uncertain.
Some time ago, MAN Energy Solutions presented a compromise to our community. Whilst some sacrifice had to be made by giving up the big field to development, the remaining 80% of the land would be legally signed over to the Land Trust along with a £1.27m investment offered as part of the deal which would further improve the space for the benefit of the community in perpetuity.
This is an unprecedented offer, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to put an end to decades of uncertainty.
If the community don’t support the compromise, there is a high probability that MAN will sell the entire site to developers, potential developers have been seen walking the site, and we understand that there have already been offers to buy the land without planning permission. The land is currently fenced off with no legal public access. Once sold, whilst the land would most likely be banked and may not actually be developed for some years, when in all probability the councils housing needs will only become greater, policies will inevitably change, and there is a high risk that the entire site will be developed over time. The deal on the table right now is from the current landowner, once ownership of the land is passed to someone else, that deal is gone forever.
MAN Energy Solutions have indicated that the offer is still on the table and that they will appeal against the refusal of outline planning permission, this means we can still make this happen, by coming together as a community, by lobbying our councillors, by writing to the planning inspectorate and also by writing letters of support to MAN, which they can use as part of the appeal.