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Bristol City Council’s Public Rights of Way and Greens Committee, on 18 April, deferred a decision on a new process for determining applications to register land as a town or village greens and agreed instead to conduct a public consultation.
We had objected to the council’s proposal to refer applications to a council subcommittee, advised by council officers, rather than holding a public inquiry. Other objectors included the Bristol Parks Forum, the Bristol Green Party and the local Conservative Group.
Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘We were concerned that the reason for this proposed new procedure was to get rid of the possibility of the council receiving inconvenient advice from an independent inspector, that it should register land as a green when it did not wish to do so.
‘We are delighted that, due to the objections, the council has agreed to defer a decision and instead to consult the public on the process.
‘It is vital that the council demonstrates total objectivity in assessing the facts and the evidence in every case. Where it has a legal interest in the land, it may be difficult to do this without holding an independent inquiry or hearing. The council should be open to doing this, not least so that it can be seen to be truly objective, otherwise it risks judicial review.
‘It is not necessary in every case to employ expensive counsel as the inspector or arbiter. It is perfectly reasonable to employ a layperson—a former public rights-of-way officer (of which there are, sadly, an increasing number due to redundancies) for instance.
‘It would be helpful if the council, in establishing its procedure for determining applications, could also set timescales for each stage. This would be a good example to those registration authorities who do not operate to a timetable, as delays are detrimental to all with an interest in the land.
‘We look forward to being consulted on this important matter, so that we can argue for the best possible process, in the interests of all. Green spaces are incredibly important to the people of Bristol.’