Bitter dispute over future of Moreton Morrell playing field goes on

Villagers outside the entrance to the field
Villagers outside the entrance to the field

A bitter dispute between villagers and Warwickshire College over the future of a community playing field has still not been resolved.

The 25-year lease on the village playing field in Moreton Morrell, owned by Warwickshire College Group, is set to expire on Saturday September 30.

The college wanted to sell off some of its land for 35 new houses, which the council did not support. Because the plans contradict Stratford District Council’s Core Strategy, the college needs support from the parish council for the plans to go ahead.

The council has claimed the college is holding the fields to ransom in exchange for their support, and is now seeking legal advice. WCG claims the whole affair has been misinterpreted by the council.

Both parties have not yet sat down together and found a solution. The college has offered to extend the lease by one year so talks can happen, but the council say this would affect its statutory rights.

On Monday July 31, dozens of villagers turned up at a council meeting to express the importance of the existing playing field.

Cllr Anne Parry of Moreton Morrell Parish Council said: “We’ve want to live in harmony with the college - the last thing we wanted to do was take legal action. But we had no choice. We have to try and protect the playing fields.

“We haven’t been able to invest in the playing fields because we can’t until we get a new lease.

“We’ve tried to talk to the college in a professional way and we’ve been taken down a dead end. Enough is enough.”

But a spokesman for WCG said the college was happy to talk. He added: “At all stages the college has been committed to delivering a suitable solution.  

“Our proposal to extend the lease by one year is so that we can take the time needed to work with all of the villagers - and not just the parish council - to decide on the best option for the future, for all of us.

“Our intention would be to bring the village, the college and developers together to create a solution that provides new housing and attracts more people to the village, that generates funding to invest in the college, and that secures a playground and open green space for the village.”

The 3.5-acre field has a play area for young children, football goal posts and a skate park. It is also used for recreation by college students.

A public footpath crosses the field and is often used by villagers and dog walkers.