Court cases – Town and village greens

We publish a commentary for most decisions in the courts about town or village green registration cases. You can find a list of these cases below, together with a link to our commentary or to a report of the case on the website of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute where available.

Case listing and analysis

  • Moorside Fields and Leach Grove Wood

    R (on the application of Lancashire County Council) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and another
    R (on the application of NHS Property Services Ltd)  v Surrey County Council and another
    conjoined with

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Supreme Court judgement 2019

    Key issues: The circumstances in which the concept of “statutory incompatibility” will defeat an application to register land as a town or village green where the land is held by a public authority for statutory purposes.

  • Leach Grove Wood, Leatherhead

    R (on the application of NHS Property Services Ltd) v Surrey County Council and Jones

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2018

    High Court 2016

    Key issues: Registration of land held by public body other than for public recreation (statutory incompatibility); whether council could depart from inspector’s conclusion on test of neighbourhood within a locality.

  • Moorside Fields, Lancaster

    Lancashire County Council v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Bebbington

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2018

    High Court 2016

    Key issues: Registration of land held by local authority and annexed to school: whether evidence held for education purposes; whether registration of education authority land incompatible with statutory purposes; definition of locality; whether residence of users must be distributed across locality (‘spread’)

  • Vowley View, Royal Wootton Bassett

    Wiltshire Council v Cooper Estates Strategic Land Ltd and Gosnell and Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2019

    High Court 2018

    Key issues: Land owned by a local authority and annexed to a school could be registered as a town
    green, as there was insufficient evidence that it was held for educational purposes. The
    court also opined that, even if the evidence were sufficient, there was no fundamental
    conflict between registration and the statutory purposes of the education authority. Overturned on appeal: see above

  • Allen’s Quay, Mistley

    T W Logistics Ltd v Essex County Council and Tucker

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2018

    High Court 2017

    Key issues: The issue on this appeal was whether part of the working port of Mistley had been properly registered as a town or village green.

  • Meadow Triangle, Cambridge

    R (on the application of St John’s College) v Cambridgeshire County Council and Davies

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    High Court 2017

    Key issues: The initial role of the commons registration authority on a s15 application to register a town or village green is to decide whether the application is duly made and therefore procedurally compliant with the regulatory requirements. The government’s guidance on these aspects was criticised (and redrafted inthe judgment). 

2016-2011

2010 and prior
  • Coatham Common, Redcar

    R (on the application of Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Persimmon Homes plc

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Supreme Court 2010

    Court of Appeal 2009

    High Court 2008

    Key issues: The Supreme Court has ruled that Coatham Common, Redcar is to be registered as a village green. The judgment was that ‘deference’ by local people to the landowner’s use of the land did not prevent their recreational use being as of right. 

  • Trap Grounds, Oxford

    Oxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council and Robinson

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    House of Lords 2006
    Court of Appeal 2005 
    High Court 2004

    Key issues: The key issues in this case were whether registration of land as a green, based on 20 years lawful sports and pastimes, gives the relevant inhabitants rights to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes on the land.

  • Whitmey Case

    R (on the application of Whitmey) v Commons Commissioners

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2004

    Key issues: The judges concluded that the commons commissioners have no jurisdiction for registering greens in a dispute arising under section 13 of the Commons Registration Act 1965.

  • Sports Arena, Washington [Beresford]

    R v City of Sunderland ex parte Beresford

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    House of Lords 2003

    Court of Appeal 2001 

    High Court 2000 
    Partly overturned in the Supreme Court in Barkas

    Key issues: This case considered the meaning of the phrase ‘as of right’. The encouragement of the use of the land by the provision of benches and regular cutting of the grass reinforced, rather than undermined, the impression that local people were using the area ‘as of right’. [Overturned by Barkas]

  • Widmer Farm, Hazlemere

    R (on the application of Laing Homes Ltd) v Buckinghamshire County Council and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    High Court 2003

    Key issues: Laing Homes, which had bought the land in 1963 with a view to developing it for housing, applied to the court to quash Buckinghamshire County Council's decision to register the land on a number of grounds.

  • Ladydale Meadow, Leek

    R (on the application of Alfred McAlpine Homes Ltd) v Staffordshire County Council

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    High Court 2003

    Key issues: The judgement ruled that a registration authority could register a part of the land
    for which an application was made, and that ‘significant’ is a matter of impression after analysing
    the evidence.

  • The Glebe, Sunningwell

    R v Oxfordshire County Council and others, ex parte Sunningwell Parish Council

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    House of Lords 1999

    Key issues: The judgment significantly changes the criteria by which registration authorities are required to determine applications to register town or village greens and defines ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ and ‘as of right’. 

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