A PUBLIC inquiry to decide the future of an historic piece of land in Ramsbottom gets underway tomorrow.

Three sessions, which run until Thursday, are expected to consider a bid by Ramsbottom Heritage Society to secure town or village green status for Church Fields.

The hearing at Ramsbottom Civic Hall is about the land, near Bolton Street, which has been fenced off by owners Peel Holdings since April 2011.

The society has been examining the legal status of Church Fields ever since.

Society president Andrew Todd has collected statements from residents whose memories of playing on the fields stretch back to the 1920s.

The society claims the land has been used by local people for at least 200 years.

But Peel Holdings disagree about the history of the land, saying the earliest map of Ramsbottom, which was drawn when the Grant family bought land in the town in 1806, names it as Hall Common.

Church Fields was widely used by walkers, dog walkers, blackberry pickers, birdwatchers, and for a whole host of leisure pursuits before the fence was put up.

More than 100 people formed a human chain at the site last Saturday as a public show of defiance ahead of the inquiry.

Among the youngest to take part were three-year-old twins Nicole and Faith Holt, who take turns to play Fiz Stape’s daughter, Hope, in Coronation Street.

Mr Todd said: “The human chain stretched for about a distance of 100 yards on a public footpath and public right of way which runs through Church Fields.

“I was very pleased with the turnout. There is a lot of interest in, and affection for, that land.”