A LEGAL battle over a Haltwhistle football pitch cost the taxpayer more than £40,000.

Figures released by Haltwhistle Town Council last week show that the legal fees relating to the Old School Playing Field, paid to Newcastle-based law firm Ward Hadaway, amounted to £40,803.83.

The costs came after the council was sued by one of its own members in 2016, over claims that maintenance work on the field was unlawful. Haltwhistle Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre also had a writ issued against them.

The Old School Playing Field, also known as Burn Field, was the subject of a successful application to change it to a village green in 2011, after residents said they wanted to prevent over-development and over-use of the facility by football teams.

The late Coun. Jean Belger, who died earlier this year, believed that a scheme that involved digging up the football pitch to improve drainage failed to comply with village green legislation.

Following months of meetings behind closed doors, a joint statement from solicitors representing all parties was released, stating that the matter had been settled by mediation and that the site could be used for up to three organised football matches each week.

Haltwhistle Town Council’s chairman, Coun. Alan Sharp, said: “The key thing was that it is a village green, and as a result we have to have organised football games.

“The person who contested that, she wanted there to be no more than two games a week. We stated that we would settle for no less than three games a week.

“As a village green we wanted the teams to be able to use it because of the money we’d spent on the drainage and improving the field. So that was the disagreement.

“Football is important to the town and it’s important that the teams have somewhere to play.

“We as a council are pleased that it has been worked out in this way.”

Coun. Sharp added that the field is not only for football, and can be used for all sports as well as being enjoyed as a village green.