Diss Fair Green up for sale

Adam GrettonA question mark has been raised over the future of a centuries-old town green in Diss after Fair Green was put up for sale.Adam Gretton

A question mark has been raised over the future of a centuries-old town green in Diss after Fair Green was put up for sale.

Fears were raised about the future maintenance of one of the town's 'jewels' last year after Diss Town Council debated the renewal of its lease.

Civic leaders had pledged to continue the upkeep of the historic green and wild flower meadow, but did not want to take on the responsibility of filling pot-holes and resurfacing the access roads bordering the four-acre site.

The decision by the town council not to continue to the lease on its existing terms has now prompted the Diss Parochial Charity, which owns Fair Green, to put the registered village green up for auction.

Officials from the charity, which runs four almshouses in the area and supports hard-up residents, said they were unable to meet the maintenance costs and had unanimously decided to sell the land on the open market.

The green, which has had a Royal Charter to host an annual fair since the mid 1400s, is popular place for families, picnickers, walkers, runners, and gamers and hosts travelling fairs and circuses.

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David Cooper, chairman of the Diss Parochial Charity, said it was an 'extremely tough decision and one made very reluctantly' to sell Fair Green. He added that he hoped a consortium of interested parties could step in to buy the land, which is valued at �45,000.

'It is of great public interest and the charity does note it is an important historical site and a valuable asset to Diss. However, the charity does is not in a position to maintain that land. We do not have the financial resources or the charitable objective to do so.

'Given the town council's unwillingness to continue the lease, we feel we have to put it up for sale,' he said.

Diss Town Council's 21 year lease is set to end in May and members opted against renewing it under the existing terms because of escalating maintenance costs. They warned that the cost of bringing the roads up to highway standards could cost in excess of �500,000.

Deborah Sarson, town clerk, said the town council was 'doubly disappointed' by the decision of the parochial charity and the short notice of its intentions.

'We believe everyone has a duty of care to the local community and to consult them properly. That cannot be done without a lease extension when a threat of losing Fair Green hangs over everyone's heads. The people of Fair Green and Diss deserve better.'

'We would ask the charity to consider withdrawing the land for sale and extend the lease for six months to give everyone a chance to consider and discuss the options,' she said.

The auction is set to be handled by TW Gaze in the summer.

Rachel Baker, chairman of the Fair Green Neighbourhood Association, added: 'I am very disappointed. I hope that no one buys it and I think the best solution is for the parochial charity and the town council to work together and find a way forward. We are very willing to work with them.'