RESIDENTS are racing to stop a village green with a memorial bench to a local mum being sold off for development.

A villager in Grove stumbled on the plan to sell the grassy triangle next to Edington Place on property website rightmove last week, and shared it on Facebook.

The discovery quickly prompted anger and alarm because the green is home to a bench commemorating Grove mum Dominique Hill, who died in December 2018.

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Resident Tracey Hodge summed up the feeling online by commenting: "Why on Earth would they want to sell that part of the green?? Especially with a memorial bench on it. How utterly horrendous."

The land is being sold by estate agents McHugh & Company in an online auction on Wednesday, June 10 – just two weeks' time.

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Facebook users quickly suggested the idea of raising the money locally to buy the plot.

Until now, Grove Parish Council and everyone else in the village had thought the council owned the land – indeed, it was the council that granted permission for the bench to be put there in March last year.

However council clerk Graham Mundy has now dug through years of records and made enquiries to work out who actually owns the plot and is now trying to sell it.

He revealed: "The land is owned by Davis Estates Southern, who built that whole side of Grove.

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"The founder of the company has passed away, so his family are now selling off the company's assets.

"I have been going through our our Land Registry files and mapping and it seems it is a parcel of land that was just forgotten about, and assumed to have been transferred to the council."

Now Mr Mundy and the council are racing to try to stop the sale of the land, which could even end up in the hands of a developer.

He warned: "If someone else does purchase it and came forward with a planning application, the parish council would be well within its rights if it objected.

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Elodie and William Heley, children of Dominique Hill's friend Megan Heley, share a moment on the bench.

"We could say it was detrimental to the current use of open space – it's been used as public open space since that estate was completed in the 1970s."

Yesterday morning Mr Mundy contacted the Davis Estates family's solicitors, to see if they would be willing to negotiate.

The council hopes that the family may be willing to stop the auction and agree to a deal.

However, in case that strategy fails, the council has also now scheduled a special meeting next Tuesday – just eight days before the sale – to discuss bidding on the land itself at the auction.

If all else fails, Mr Mundy said the council could apply to the Land Registry for an official order of 'Adverse Possession' to try and get official ownership of a piece of land which the legal owner has not used.

However, he stressed, that would be a last resort.

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Now the council is waiting to hear from the family to see what they say, and the villagers must wait as well.

Dominique Hill made headlines in July 2017, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and launched a mission to create a lifetime of memories for her two boys Toby and Callum in just two years.

As one of the top items on her 'bucket list', she helped to plant her own memorial tree on the grass just across the path from where her bench now sits, and it was her idea to have the bench opposite.

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Dominique Hill helps plant her own memorial tree, a willow, in March 2018. Picture: Ed Nix

Her close friend Megan Heley, who arranged the bench installation after Mrs Hill passed away, said it now meant a great deal to many in the village.

She said: "That land has become very important place in Grove for lots of people and they are very passionate about keeping it there for what Dom intended.

"Hopefully the parish council can buy it, and the community would be very grateful for that, but if we need to take other measures I am sure the community will come together to do that."

The Herald contacted McHugh & Company to ask if the family would be willing to negotiate with the parish council, but had not received a response at time of going to press.

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Left-to-right, Vici Ault Montgomery, Laura New, Michelle Rolls and Megan Heley shares memories of Dominique Hill on the memorial bench.