Update 20 July 2016
The Planning ( Wales) Act 2015 received Royal Assent in 2015.
Part 8 of the Act contains sections which will amend the Commons Act 2006 in Wales. Section 52 introduces landowner statements which will allow landowners to deposit a statement to bring to an end “as of right” (without secrecy force or permission) use of the land.
If evidence can be obtained to apply to register land as a village green an application will have to be made within the period of time prescribed.
Once Section 53 is in force, it will not be possible to apply to register land as a village green where a planning application has been granted, a local development order which grants planning permission for operational development is adopted, or an order granting development consent has been made. These restrictions, or “ trigger events”, are set out in Schedule 6 of the Act (see P85) and will amend section 15 the Commons Act 2006.
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs in the Welsh Government has confirmed that Part 8 was not brought into force following Royal Assent, and remains to be commenced.
The scheme for implementation of the remaining provisions of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 is set out in the Positive Planning Implementation Plan. The Plan states that work to commence Sections 52 and 53 will begin during 2017. Section 54, which relates to fees for common land applications, is intended to come into force later this year.
Update 3 February 2015
We are delighted that a National Assembly for Wales Committee is calling for better protection of village greens. The report of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, which is scrutinising the Planning (Wales) Bill, states that ‘the provisions of the Bill in relation to town and village greens, as currently drafted, have caused us some concern’.
The committee recommends that the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant AM, makes three amendments to the Bill to protect town and village greens. These recommendations are similar to those proposed by the society which presented evidence to the committee last December.
The first recommendation is to remove the ‘trigger’ events from the Bill. The proposed ‘triggers’ would prohibit village green applications where land is identified for development, including in draft plans, even before the public has had the opportunity to comment on the draft.
The second recommendation is to remove from the Bill a provision which will reduce the period within which a town or village green applications can be made, after use is challenged, from two years to one year. The committee recognises that the public needs two years in which to gather the necessary evidence of use and submit an application for registration of land as a green.
The third recommendation is to remove from the Bill a provision for fees to be set for applications to amend the town and village green register.
Read the full story here.
Update 15 December 2014
Our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, gave oral evidence to the Environment & Sustainability Committee on 11 December and we are grateful to all those members who sent examples to support her submission. Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Natural Resources, has said that he is considering an amendment to the current Bill and we will continue to update our members by email and via the website when we have further news.
Update 19 November 2014
On 7 November, we sent evidence to the Welsh Environment and Sustainability Committee which is inquiring into the principles of the Planning (Wales) Bill and you can see a copy of our response here.
We are today urging people in Wales to write to their Assembly Members, especially if they are members of the Welsh Environment and Sustainability Committee, which is holding an inquiry into the principles of the Planning (Wales) Bill.
(Click here to find details of assembly members)
(Click here to see members of the committee and their contact details)
Please urge Assembly Members to remove from the Bill the damaging provisions in Part 7 which restrict when a town or village green application can be made, using the summary points in our response if possible. If allowed to stand, the clauses in the Bill would prevent people from making village green applications where the land is threatened with development They also introduce landowner statements which further restrict registration of land as a town or village green. Please tell your Assembly Members of local examples if you have them.
It is essential that we persuade Assembly Members of the folly of including these clauses in the Bill, and it is their responsibility to listen to the views of their electorate.
Our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, will be giving oral evidence to the committee on 11 December and we are grateful to those members who have already sent examples to which she will refer in her evidence. Any further examples of land which has been protected, could be protected, or might be prevented from being protected, as a village green would be welcome.
Your help is vital if we are to succeed in having these clauses removed from the Bill.
7 November 2014
We have responded robustly to the Welsh Government’s draft Planning Bill in which it proposes to prohibit the registration of land as a town or village green where it has been identified for development.
The government also plans to enable landowners to deposit statements with the registration (unitary) authority, challenging people’s use of the land for recreation.
At present, local people can apply to register land as a green if they have enjoyed it for 20 years for informal recreation, without being stopped or given permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development.
Village green at Bishop’s Grove, Sketty, Swansea, registered in 2008
Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘These proposals strike a blow at the heart of local communities, preventing them from securing the land they have long enjoyed. Many people won’t even be aware that land is threatened with development until it is too late to save it.
‘We are dismayed that the Welsh Government wants to copy the Westminster Government’s egregious Growth and Infrastructure Act and to introduce the same damaging changes to the law.
‘We have suggested instead that, before allocating land for development, planning authorities must be satisfied that the land is not capable of being registered as a green. If the land is eligible for registration, the authority must allow local people sufficient time to gather evidence and submit an application. That application should be determined before the planning application. This would give local people a chance.
‘People generally take for granted their customary use of land for recreation and play. It is only when that land is under threat that they realise they must record their rights in order to save them.
‘The Welsh Government claims that it has evidence that applications for registration as a green are being used to frustrate development. Where is that evidence? Our belief is that people naturally want to save land which they have enjoyed.
‘It is not necessary to change the law in order to improve the village-green process. It is possible to speed up and streamline the system by amending the regulations and guidance (read more here).’ Nicola continues.
‘We have told the Welsh Government how it might do this, by introducing time limits at every stage and giving authorities the power to reject vexatious applications at the start. We also propose greater dialogue between the registration and planning departments in local authorities so that there are no surprises.
‘We fear that a change in the law could put a stop to communities being able to secure the land they love. We have many examples of groups who are trying to register greens to do just that.’
Click here to read more on Saving Welsh village greens from changes in planning law.