A community raised £45,000 to buy its own village green space back after a council blunder 40 years ago saw the land being sold to a developer for a 'pittance'.
Residents decided to take action after discovering a clerical mishap by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council in Hampshire, meant the area's tree-fringed green space, had been sold off for a fraction of its value at auction.
Despite being worth an estimated £300,000 the land was sold multiple times at auctions for as little as £8,000 - with the council having overlooked several opportunities to purchase the plot back for just £1.
But locals rallied together to raise funds - with donations, bike rides and a 'Junemas' event - to save the green area where children learn to ride their first bicycles and residents enjoy picnics.
The clerical mishap by the council, when the Lychpit housing estate was first built in 1980, meant the transfer of the green space to the local authority never took place.
As a result it came as a shock to locals - and the council - when a resident suddenly spotted the Broadhurst Grove village green advertised for sale on the property site Rightmove last year.
Residents raised £45,000 to buy its own village green space back a clerical mishap by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Hampshire
The clerical mishap by the council, when the Lychpit housing estate was first built in 1980, meant the transfer of the green space to the local authority never took place
The council dissuaded residents from purchasing the green in the belief an agreement signed with the original owner of the land but the 'section 52 agreement' was deemed not 'robust' enough, and failed, leaving the land in the hands of developers
The council then dissuaded residents from purchasing the green when it went up for auction in the belief an agreement signed with the original owner of the land, Davis Estates Southern Limited, meant it should have been transferred to them.
But the 'section 52 agreement' was deemed not 'robust' enough, and failed, leaving the land in the hands of developers.
Now the villagers' purchase of the green, which was completed earlier this month, means the land's future is finally secured.
Sheena Grassi, a local resident and member of Old Basing and Lychpit Parish Council, says it is an enormous relief.
The mother-of-two said: 'It has been a rollercoaster since May 2020 when the land was first bought for a pittance, but we are absolutely delighted now the green is secure.
'We found out from the council in March that the section 52 failed - though it remains a mystery why that is.
'We then asked the buyers 'Will you sell, and how much for?'.
'After a few weeks they said they would sell for £45,000 plus their legal costs, and that's when we started fundraising.
'We started a Go Fund Me page, hosted a Junemas event where we sold mince pies and other treats, and one resident, Neil Armstrong, embarked on a charity cycle ride to raise funds.
'The majority of the funds came from a residents' fund which families living around the green contributed to.
'But it is a bit sad we have had to do this, really.'
Until the land was auctioned, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council thought it owned the land, and had even maintained the area for four decades.
Sheena Grassi (left), a local resident and member of Old Basing and Lychpit Parish Council, said it was 'an enormous relief' to have the land back while Jan Hall (right) said the open space serves as the heart of the community
Locals rallied together to raise funds and save the tree-fringed green in the area - which Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council mistakenly thought they owned. Pictured: Residents Sheena Grassi, Gill Moore and Jan and Tony Hall
The villagers' purchase of the green, which was completed earlier this month, means its future is finally secured
Mrs Grassi added: 'We had multiple opportunities to buy it - but we were assured by the council that the section 52 agreement meant the buyers would have to give the land over to them, and anyone could buy the land for just £1.
'They thought it was still their land and they could simply claim it back.'
The group raised more than £55,000 in total, the remainder of which will go towards future costs for the green.
They are now hoping to secure 'village green' status - which would safeguard the space from becoming anything other than an open area even if it were re-sold.
Mrs Grassi, 63, who has lived opposite the green with husband Lloyd, 64, for nearly 19 years, added: 'Our grandchildren have grown up on the green, playing with other children from families here.
'The area is very attractive for young families because the green is a nice, safe area for children to play in.
'It's also an area of great biodiversity: we have deers, foxes and badgers all visit the green. It's a unique and tranquil patch of land.
'It's lovely to see people enjoying the green again.
'Even when things were difficult, that is what spurred us on - I wanted new generations of children to enjoy it as well.'
Jan Hall and her husband Tony moved onto the estate when it was first built 41 years ago.
The retired retail worker says the open space, which her house looks out onto, serves as the heart of the community.
She said: 'It's a great relief to have secured the green - we are all delighted we were able to save it.
'Our daughter Sarah was born here and grew up playing on the green and learning to ride her bike on it, along with lots of other children.
'She was horrified when I told her it could go. It was an absolute bolt from the blue.
'Sarah and her son were both so pleased when we told them it had been saved.
'The sale upset a lot of people - it was like somebody invading your garden.. It would have been devastating if houses were built there and would have completely ruined the area.
'It's worth every penny to secure - but it still never should have happened.
'Especially during the pandemic we have all realised how precious an area like this is. We took it for granted because it had always been there, but now we realise its value.