Members of the Clayton Playing Fields Action Group came back together after a decade to give back to local charities.
The group was formed in 1989 in response to Oldham Council trying to allow a Marks and Spencer and a Safeway built on the 18 acres of land in-between Chadderton Way and Broadway.
The playing fields have a very tight deed of gift which was created by Ina Clayton in 1966 and given to the people of Chadderton, Royton and Oldham for recreational purposes. Originally a deep valley Mr Clayton took the spent ash from Chadderton Power Station, filled and flattened it before giving it to the community.
The new proposal by the council aimed to relocate those 18 acres by splitting it up across three sites in Heyside, Bardsley and at the side of Chadderton Cemetery.
However, this proposal – including 4000 other similar sites throughout the country – were to be evaluated by the Attorney General at the High Court in London. As an interpretation of Trust Law, it was a landmark ruling by Mr Justice Chadwick QC who ruled that the fields could not be split up into separate parcels of land.
Committee member, John Walton, said: “We thought we had won, but the council appealed and we all trundled back down to London. This time the council won the appeal, but the three appeal judges said the council couldn’t move the field unless they moved it to one 18-acre site which is what the deed of gift said. It also had to benefit the people of Oldham, Royton and Chadderton and be relocated within those districts and we thought we had won again.”
There was then talk of plans to relocate the Latics site onto the field, but nothing came to fruition and the group eventually began the process of claiming the fields as a town green.
John said: “We were successful and the playing fields became a town green in 2001 so it is protected for life. We have now been dormant for around ten years, but we still had money in the bank so we decided to now distribute it between local charities.”
£1500 was donated to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, £500 to the Oldham Mountain Rescue Team and £500 to Radio Cavell.
The action group came together on the fields once more to donate the money to their chosen charities and there were lots of warm welcomes and sharing of fond memories.
Clayton playing fields have now been enjoyed by the community for many years. The action group held fun days every August which included a mini steam train that ran along the track as well as a welly throwing competition and fairground stalls. The event attracted up to 4000 people.
The group were on television twice, political activist Benny Rothman came to visit them with the BBC and they made an appearance on Channel 4’s In My Backyard.
John continued: “We were the most successful action group in the country at one time. We are happy we saved the fields. Since the mill was knocked down you can see over towards Rawtenstall, the West Pennine Moors and Winter Hill, it is a beautiful space.”