Another nail in the village greens’ coffin

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We have warned communities throughout England that on 1 October new laws take effect which will further erode their rights to save their green spaces by registering them as a town or village green. The society fears that the changes will be particularly detrimental at a time when open space for communities is so vulnerable.

The Field behind Purlewent Drive, Weston, Bath registered as a green in 2013

The Field behind Purlewent Drive, Weston, Bath registered as a green in 2013

Land can be registered as a green if local people can demonstrate 20 years’ use for recreation, without challenge or permission; once registered the land is protected from development. The Growth and Infrastructure Act, which received royal assent in April, already prevents people in England from applying to register land as a green if it is threatened with development. On 1 October, the law is extended so that any application must be submitted within one year of use being challenged by a landowner, instead of two years as at present.

Furthermore, new regulations will allow landowners to prevent use by local people from developing into registrable rights.

Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘These new provisions are a further nail in the coffin of our green spaces, placing greater restrictions on those wanting to protect their valued open space.

‘The changes put yet more obstacles in the way of genuine applicants who have used land for 20 years for recreation and merely wish to record the rights they have gained.

‘At present there is a two-year period within which an application can be made, where there has been a challenge to local people’s use of the land. This will be reduced to one year from 1 October.

‘Landowners will be able to deposit a statement with their registration authority [county or unitary council] to bring an end to any period of recreational use of land and this will be recorded in a register. We are concerned that local people may not be aware of these statements. ‘Although the notice must be published on the authority’s website and placed on the land for six weeks, there is no requirement to replace notices which are removed. That is grossly unfair for local people who naturally assume that their rights will continue unchallenged.

‘So communities whose use of land has been challenged need to act fast and apply to register it within a year of that challenge or it will be too late. We urge communities to identify now any land which might be eligible as a town and village green and to apply to register it. Our book, Getting Greens Registered tells them how to do this,’ Nicola concludes.

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