Town and Village Greens - Protecting Your Interests

Land is capable of being registered as a town and village green and a person or group can apply to register land as a town and village green where 'a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality or of any neighbourhood within the locality have indulged as of right in law for sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years.'

Since October of this year, the provisions of the Commons Act 2006 have been amended with effect that certain trigger events can operate to prevent the registration of a town and village green . Trigger events stay in place until a terminating event occurs when the window to re-apply for a town and village green re-opens.

Examples of trigger events and terminating events are as follows:

Trigger Event Terminating Event
Application for Planning Consent • Application withdrawn
• Application not validated by the local authority
• Planning application refused and all legal remedies are exhausted
• Planning permission expires before implementation

Draft Development Plan published for consultation • Development plan is adopted
• Document withdrawn or revoked
Draft Neighbourhood Plan/Neighbourhood plan published • Document ceases to have any legal effect

In addition to this development, a new Section (15A) has been introduced into the Commons Act which introduces a procedure whereby a land owner can deposit a declaration with a map showing the land to, in effect, draw a line in the sand to prevent a 20 year period of use occurring. The document and map is deposited with the rights of way authority and then it is advertised on site and recorded in the public register. The effect of such a declaration is to rebut the presumption that the land has been used as of right for over 20 years.

The issue for land owners is that if such an application is made and an aggrieved party comes forward, the aggrieved party has one year within which to make an application for a town and village green. Therefore the use of a land owner declaration should normally only be made when there is little or no prospect of a town and village green application being made.

One procedure that has not been given as much publicity is contained within the National Planning Policy Framework. There is a provision within the Framework that when making plans, either at local authority or neighbourhood level, there is an ability for the plan making body to give an area of land what is termed a "Green Space Designation".

The criteria for such a designation is that the land is:

  • close to the community it serves
  • special to a local community with a particular local significance
  • local in character and not an extensive tract of land

Clearly, proposals such as this will come forward as part of the local plan process and land owners will have an opportunity to make appropriate representations.

The matter to be aware of is that should such a local green space designation be adopted in policy terms, it has a weight equivalent to the policy for the protection of green belt land thereby making any development of the land very difficult.

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