Town and village greens have developed under customary law as areas of land where local people indulged in lawful sports and pastimes. These might include organised or ad hoc games, picnics, fêtes and similar activities. Most greens were registered in the 1960s under the Commons Registration Act 1965. A new procedure for registering village greens was introduced by the Commons Act 2006. It allows registration of land as a green if it has been used by local people for lawful sports and pastimes 'as of right' (i.e. without permission, force or secrecy) for at least 20 years. Once registered as a village green this offers the land in question important protection particularly from development.
The problem with the town and village green regime is that it is complicated. Not all of the Commons Act 2006 was introduced at once across the entire country. It has also been modified by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 which excludes the right to apply for the registration of land in England as a town or village green where a 'trigger event' has occurred in relation to the land.
The problem for those wishing to register land as a village green is that a 'trigger event' broadly relates to whether land is identified for potential development in the planning system.
A recent decision by the Supreme Court is seen by many as a threat to village greens. In the case, local people applied for an area of land which was owned by the county council to be registered as a village green. The council objected on the ground that the field might be needed for expansion of the local school i.e. for development and the Supreme Court agreed with their view. Campaigners feel that the decision of the Supreme Court represents a significant threat because many areas of green space will be available for development.
This is a complex area. Many people living near open land value it for the benefits it provides to their community in terms of enjoyment and recreation and wish to protect it from development.
Whether you live near to a village green, wish to buy a property adjacent to a village green or are concerned about the status of open land in your area, take specialist advice.
To discuss this or any other property related matter, contact us.