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‘A black ruling for greens’, is how we responded to the judgment* in the Supreme Court yesterday (5 February) which gives a green light to developers who want to build on open spaces.
The court ruled that village greens at Curtis Fields at Weymouth in Dorset and Clayton Fields at Kirklees, West Yorkshire, must be removed from the greens register, leaving them at risk of development.
The case turned on whether the developers’ delay in challenging village-green status was unreasonable—a delay of four years in the Dorset case, and 12 years at Kirklees. The judges held that there was no evidence that anyone was prejudiced by the delay in determining the status of the land. They found in favour of the developers.
We are dismayed by this decision which gives a green light to developers to grab our village greens. It invites them to unpick the laws which were intended to protect land which local people have cherished for recreation, and to challenge whether the land should have been registered as a green.
It is particularly worrying that a delay of 12 years in challenging a decision is held to be acceptable. This comes on top of recent law changes which make it easier for developers to grab land which is used and loved by local people.
We commiserate with the Friends of Markham and Little Francis in Weymouth, and the Clayton Fields Action Group in Kirklees. Both groups fought tireless battles and risked large sums of money in defence of their green spaces. We thank them for their persistence on behalf of us all.
This is a black ruling for village greens, but we shall continue the campaign we have fought for the last 150 years to help people secure their open spaces for informal recreation.
*Adamson and others v Paddico (267) Ltd and Mrs Gill Taylor (on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Frances) v Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd.