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Landowner statements: the threat to village greens

On 1 October 2013 England’s greens suffered yet another blow, when further provisions of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 took effect.  Now you must apply to register land as a green within one year of a landowner’s challenge to your use of the land for informal recreation.

Under section 15A of the Commons Act 2006, a landowner can deposit a statement and map which bring to an end any period of recreational use of the land which was ‘as of right’, ie without secrecy, force or permission. Once such a statement is deposited with the commons registration authority (county or unitary council), local people have only one year in which to apply for village green status. Previously they had two years from the date of challenge.

The notice of challenge to use of a green must be published on the commons registration authority’s website for at least 60 days and posted at or near at least one entry point to the land for the same period.  However, if the site notices are removed, there is no requirement to replace them, so people could easily be ignorant that their use was being challenged.

The landowner must deposit a further statement and map within 20 years.

Registration authorities will hold a register of  landowner statements and must serve notice by email on anyone who has asked to be informed.  The society has written to all the registration authorities to ask to be notified.  You too should contact your registration authority if you wish to be notified of any landowner statements.

Clearly you should gather evidence of use and submit an application to register land before the landowner deposits a statement, otherwise you will have little time in which to do this.

This provision has been brought in simultaneously with the updated section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 whereby landowners may deposit statements and maps declaring the routes on their land which they acknowledge to be public. These too must be renewed every 20 years.

Some commons registration authorities are making the registers of landowner statements available to view online as shown below. We shall add further registration authorities to this list as the registers become available for online viewing:

Bradford Metropolitan District Council

Devon County Council

East Sussex County Council

Hertfordshire County Council

Kent County Council

Lincolnshire County Council

Norfolk County Council

Suffolk County Council

Surrey County Council

York City Council