VILLAGERS are celebrating victory in a long-running dispute over land they believe belongs to the community.

Residents in Great Langton, near Northallerton, are delighted at a ruling over land in the centre of the village which had been used for leisure for years.

A decision by North Yorkshire County Council gives the area village green status and means residents can now get on with plans to create a wildlife haven and park.

They say this scheme has been held up by local businessman Kevin Tiplady, who has fenced off the land. The site adjoins land owned by him, and his sheep have been able to get through and graze on the "green."

One villager said: "Mr Tiplady has delayed our plans by almost two years, as well as destroying trees we had bought and planted."

At its last meeting, the county council committee for Hambleton accepted a residents' application for village green status. This means the land is protected in law from any building or other activity and villagers cannot be prevented from using it for recreation.

The dispute has been highly acrimonious and no-one was prepared to be named as a spokesman for fear of reprisals.

But one villager - while wishing to remain anonymous - outlined the history of the row.

He said trouble started in late 2000 when Mr Tiplady put up a fence around the plot. In spring 2001 villagers planted trees and shrubs, but so did Mr Tiplady, although not to an agreed plan.

The resident said that between summer 2001 and spring 2002, trees and shrubs planted by villagers were pulled up or mown down.

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