A PUBLIC inquiry is to be held to decide whether church-owned land in central Harrow should be given town green status.
Marion Garner-Patel, chairwoman of Kingsfield Residents' Action Group, and neighbour Dr Humphrey Shaw have urged Harrow Council to award the protective designation to St George's Field, which is behind St George's Church in Pinner View, Harrow.
The landowner, St George's Church Parochial Church Council (PCC), closed the Churchfield Close gates in 2003 and the Pinner View gates two years later. It intends to build housing on some of the site and hand over the rest to the council for open space for public use.
But Mrs Garner-Patel and Dr Shaw want to stave off any redevelopment in order to ensure families have unrestricted access to the entire grassed area for recreational use as, according to local residents, they have had for decades.
Harrow Council's three-strong licensing panel agreed last Thursday that the application was valid and a public inquiry should be held into the matter, during the week beginning February 21.
Mrs Garner-Patel said: "We are trying to find a barrister or kind lawyer who will help by acting for us pro bono as we haven't got the funding to pay for one ourselves. But we don't know why we have to go through the procedure of a public inquiry at all. Why can't it just be decided by the licensing committee?
"The land was bought by the parishioners of Headstone as a source of community activity. It was paid for by public subscription and should be a town green."
PCC barrister Martin Edwards told the panel: "The onus of proof is on the applicants and where there is a dispute of facts, that must be determined at the public inquiry. Evidence should be on oath."
In October, the PCC was refused permission by the council's planning committee to build flats and houses on the field because councillors said the benefits of the affordable housing and improved public access to the green space would not outweigh the loss of green space in the borough.
TOWN GREEN STATUS - WHAT MUST BE PROVED
* The land is mainly used by local residents rather than visitors.
* It is used for legal activities such as sports and pastimes.
* It has been used for at least 20 years.
* People have not forced their way on to the land or used it clandestinely.
* It has been used without the permission of the landowner.