- At the Annual Parish Assembly in April 2012, the Chairman of the Sedlescombe Branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) suggested that a flagpole should be erected on Sedlescombe Village Green.
- A Clerk's Briefing Note (13-12) was produced in April 2012. Subsequently, the Parish Council was informed by the Clerk that planning approval was necessary because of the height of the proposed flagpole.
- At the Council Meeting in May 2012, the idea as proposed by RBL was approved in principle. At a later meeting, the Council asked RBL to provide further details concerning who would raise and lower the flag and asked for confirmation that the money would be available from local supporters.
- Publicity was given to the suggestion by the Parish Council in its June 2012, October 2012 and January 2013 Bulletins. No comments were initially received from the public.
- The Sedlescombe Branch of the Royal British Legion raised sufficient funds to purchase the flagpole and flags and found four people willing to raise and lower the flag as appropriate. The RBL suggested that the Union Flag should be flown for all the time apart from days when flying the St George's Flag, or other approved flags, would be appropriate.
- Pumphouse Designs drew up plans for the planning application free of charge, the Parish Council's Planning Committee approved the plans in November 2012 and agreed to pay the planning application fee. The application was submitted to Rother District Council just before Christmas 2012 (RR/2012/2508/P).
- During the planning application consultation period, the following comments were made:
- Concern from neighbours that the continual flapping of flags would have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of their own properties.
- Objection from residents to the idea of a flagpole and flags on the Green for the following reasons:
- The Green is small and the flagpole will dominate, not enhance the current beautiful landscape in a Conservation Area and AONB.
- It is a legal requirement for the pole to "add to the enjoyment" of the Green and it would not do so.
- Costs of repair and maintenance would probably be down to local tax payers if Parish Council takes on responsibility. Otherwise the District Council and Parish Council should not promote and authorise a scheme for a third party on Common Land. This it is suggested would not be lawful.
- The development could cause a dangerous precedent for other cluttering of The Green (and, in the extreme, could open the way for such structures as mobile phone masts etc).
- Flagpoles should be on private land not "our lovely small historic green".
- Commons Act 2006 secs 1 and 38, covering village greens, states that permission for development needs to be obtained from a national authority (Secretary of State), not the local authority.
- Common Land Guidance sheets, particularly 1b, 1a and 2b, on the Planning Portal website list works and processes that do not need approval. The list does NOT include flagpoles. It is suggested this is because such a structure could hinder access to all parts of the green, is permanent, would prevent certain recreational activities, particularly by reason of its height, and is not for general enjoyment of all users of the green.
- The legislation exists to prevent development on valued open space, particularly important on our small green in the heart of the village. This historic area should be conserved and not gradually urbanised.
- The Village has had enough of permanent fluttering flags, wobbly inflatable men etc on a prominent commercial site close by - now thankfully ceased. A repeat should not be encouraged with what may be perceived as a precedent being set on Parish Council land!
- Sedlescombe Village Green is a registered Village Green. The Parish Council is the owner. Use of a village green is governed by the Commons Act 1876, section 29 which states as follows:
An encroachment on or inclosure of a town or village green also any erection thereon or disturbance or interference with or occupation of the soil thereof which is made otherwise than with a view to the better enjoyment of such town or village green or recreation ground shall be deemed to be a public nuisance, and if any person does any act in respect of which he is liable to pay damages or a penalty under section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 he may be summarily convicted thereof upon the information of any inhabitant of the parish in which such town or village green or recreation ground is situate as well as upon the information of such persons as in the said section mentioned. This section shall apply only in cases where a town or village green or recreation ground has a known and defined boundary.
- In a NALC Legal Topic Note (No.56) it states, when considering putting play equipment on a green: Section 29 is particularly relevant to the placing of equipment on a green. To do so is undoubtedly an 'encroachment' and an 'erection' on a green and is thus illegal unless
carried out 'with a view to the better enjoyment of the green'.
The topic note goes on to say: It is not always easy to determine whether a given activity amounts to an interference or an interruption or is for the better enjoyment of a village green. And there has been very little case law to assist with interpretation. In R. on the Application of Laing Homes Limited v Buckinghamshire County Council (2003) the High Court stated simply: "If a village green is established, any other use involving acts which would interrupt its use for enjoyment and recreation are effectively prohibited."
- The question is, therefore:- WOULD THE ERECTION OF A FLAGPOLE TOGETHER WITH A FLAG ON SEDLESCOMBE VILLAGE GREEN BE FOR THE BETTER ENJOYMENT OF THE VILLAGE GREEN? Clearly, the people writing to Rother DC with comments on the planning application for the flagpole do not think so. NALC suggests local consultation and perhaps consultation with a group like the Open Spaces Society (who are active in opposing infringements on village greens) may be a sensible precaution.
- Regarding the need for Planning Inspectorate approval, if the proposal is not contrary to section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 or section 29 of the Commons Act 1876, there is generally no requirement under the legislation relating to commons and greens to obtain consent from the Planning Inspectorate to carry out works on a green.
Pauline J Raymond
Sedlescombe Parish Council
5 February 2013