Residents of a small village in west Cumbria have launched a campaign to secure village green status for a historic piece of local land.
Villagers in Pica, to the north east of Whitehaven, have taken advantage of their windy local environment for generations by using ‘the drying green’ as a place to hang out their wet washing.
Current community residents have been using the green for this purpose for up to 70 years, and it’s thought the practice has been taking place for up to two centuries.
However, as the area is unregistered, none of the local authorities have responsibility for its ongoing maintenance, and in recent years, it has become pock-marked with holes, increasingly boggy and liable to flooding, as many of its elderly drains need to be repaired.
The campaign group has been gathering testimonials from around the village in advance of applying for village green status for the land, which would mean their rights of access to and management of it would be confirmed.
Under planning law, a village green can be created if residents can demonstrate to councils that local people have enjoyed informal recreation on an area of land for 20 years, without being stopped or given permission.
The campaign is being backed by renewable energy firm Banks Renewables, the company behind plans for the proposed Weddicar Rigg Wind Farm, which would be situated on agricultural land around two kilometres to the north of Pica.
Banks has committed to investing sufficient funds to cover the cost of making immediate improvements to the drying green, including laying new turf and landscaping.
The development arm of the company is also exploring the drainage regime and possible location of underground pipes underpinning the flooding problem, with the overall aim of securing the long-term use of the green by the villagers.
The application for village green status is expected to go to Cumbria County Council later in the year.
Elaine Wilkinson of the Pica Community Group says: “This is a relatively small project that would make a really big difference to village life, and we’re confident that we have a very strong case for achieving our goals.
“One resident who is now 84 remembers the green being used for drying clothes when he first came to the village at the age of 14, and the testimonials we’re gathering from other long-standing residents clearly show that this land has been a central part of our community for decades.
“Because no-one has claimed ownership of this land, no-one will pay for its upkeep and it desperately needs work – people still using it as they always have, but the condition that it’s in is making it progressively more difficult and potentially dangerous to access, especially for our older residents.
“We want to get the registration process completed as soon as possible, to enable Banks to start work on the improvements to the site that they’re already set to undertake, and we’re hoping to have the project completed by the summer.”
A benefits fund worth around £30,000 every year – or approximately £750,000 across the 25-year lifespan of the wind farm – would enable Banks to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people if the wind farm is approved, to help ensure tangible, long-term benefits result from the company’s presence in the area.
Banks has also committed to making a £50,000 investment in support of establishing a Warm Zone scheme across the Whitehaven area, which would deliver practical measures to help to alleviate fuel poverty and improve domestic energy efficiency, and to working with Lakes College around the provision of apprenticeships for at least 15 local young people.
Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds: “The use that the residents of Pica have made of the strength of the wind in their area mirrors what we’re hoping to do, and we’re very pleased to be supporting this extremely worthwhile project.
“Sharing the benefits of the schemes that we operate with the communities in which they are situated is part of Banks’ long-term policy for ensuring that local people gain tangible, long-term advantages from our presence there, and this would very much be the case for the communities around the Weddicar Rigg wind farm if our plans are approved.”
Anyone who would like more information on the Weddicar Rigg proposals can contact the Banks project team on 0191 378 6100 or email Weddicarrigg@banksgroup.co.uk