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The Chairwelcomed allparties tothe meeting,and everyone introducedthemselves.
Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
Apology forabsence wasreceived fromCouncillors Fitzgibbon who was substituted by Councillor Christine Townsend.
Declarations of Interest
To note any declarations of interest from the Councillors. They are asked to indicate the relevant agenda item, the nature of the interest and in particular whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest.
Any declarations of interest made at the meeting which is not on the register of interests should be notified to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion.
Councillor Townsend declared an interest due to being involved with education for 20 years and during that time had been in contact with Cotham school before and after it became an academy but did not consider that this constituted a conflict of interest as this matter was about a separate piece of legislation not connected with education.
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Membersof the Committee had received Public Forum Statementsin advance of themeeting regarding agenda item no.5 - Application to Register Land at Stoke Lodge as a Town and Village Green under the Commons Act 2006, Section 15(2). The statements were takenfully into consideration prior to reaching a decision.
The Chair outlined the procedure that would be followed for hearing public forum statements and following that the procedure for the meeting –
1) Regarding public forum there would be five statements from interested groups with each being allowed to speak for 5 minutes each. In addition, there would be an additional 5 minutes to allow 8 speakers in favour of the TVG and 2 speakers against the TVG, as this was proportionate to the number of statements received.
2) Regarding the procedure leading to the decision-making process the Head of Legal Services, representing the Commons Registration Authority (CRA), would present the Council’s report. Mr Edwards, KC , advising the Committee would then give a legal overview of the matter. This would be followed by a general debate by committee members and following that a motion would be put and seconded, and this would be put to the vote for decision.
3) The Committee was required to give its reasons for the decision. If the Committee accepted the Inspector’s recommendation, for the reasons he had given in his report, then the Committee must make that clear.Conversely if the committee rejected the Inspector’s recommendations, they must provide clear reasons for doing so.
The Committee received a report of the Commons Registration Authority regarding the TVG applications duly made under the Commons Act 2006 in relation to Stoke Lodge playing fields.
The Commons Registration Authority (CRA) had received two applications from Emma Burgess and Katherine Welham, to register a site known as Stoke Lodge Playing Fields, Stoke Bishop, Bristol as a Town, or Village Green. The Applications were the subject of consideration and a report by an Inspector appointed by the CRA.
The Head of Legal Services clarified that the committee on behalf of the CRA had a statutory duty under the Commons Act 2006 to determine objectively whether or not the land in question should be registered as a Town or Village Green having full regard to the relevant statutory requirements and whether those requirements had been met.
The CRA officers’ view was that the Inspector had fully examined the applications and the process under the Commons Act 2006, and that the advice and recommendations made were correct in fact and law. Therefore, the recommendation was that the Committee adopted the recommendations of the Inspector and that the land should not be registered as a Town or Village Green.
For clarification Bristol City Council’s interest as landowner and as an objector of the applications was wholly separate and independent from its role as CRA. The separation of interests and of functions had been carefully maintained throughout the process. The CRA was satisfied that a clear separation of functions and interests had at all times been maintained and procedure properly followed.
Mr Edwards KC then gave a summary of the legal context as it applied to both applications. The burden and standard of proof was explained as were the statutory qualifying requirements. The Committee was advised that the burden of proof rested solely with the applicant and that the Committee needed to be satisfied that all of the qualifying requirements were met on the balance of probabilities. The Committee was advised that it needed to have and to give good reasons for rejecting the Inspector’s conclusions and for departing from conclusions which it reached in rejecting the town/village green application concerning Stoke Road Playing Field in 2018, on issues which are common to the current applications.
The Committee then debated the applications and the Inspector’s findings and, during the debate sought clarification from Mr Edwards KC about various points of law.
During the debate there was wide ranging discussion and questions asked including and in particular about the sufficiency of the signage that had been erected on the site at various points in time. Along with other key factors the following points in particular arose during the debate -
1) Cotham school had claimed that the 1985 Avon County Council signage and the sign erected by Bristol City Council in 2009 made the position sufficiently clear that use of the site was contentious and not ‘as of right’.
2) Some members felt that due to the size of the site, circa 23 acres, ... view the full minutes text for item 5.