We have urged the government to extend deadlines to enable the public to safeguard common land and town and village greens. This would be in line with the extension of deadlines to allow development to proceed, under the Business and Planning Bill 2019-21.
The society has written to the environment minister, Lord Gardiner.
We are concerned that, in seven English local authority areas1, the deadline for registering lost commons is 31 December, only six months away. The research to uncover lost commons requires visits to records offices and other archives, which have not been possible since mid-March. In order that unregistered commons should not be lost for ever, the society believes that the deadline should be extended.
In the case of town and village greens, once a landowner publicly challenges the recreational use of land, the users have only one year in which to apply to register it as a green. This safeguards the land and confirms the rights of local people to enjoy informal recreation there. During the pandemic, people are much less likely to have seen the notices challenging use, and in any case have been unable to meet face-to-face to gather the necessary evidence of use where such use is threatened.
Lord Gardiner has replied that the government does not intend to extend the deadlines, but may address the issues subsequently, and he mentions that government is considering a wider project on the impact of Covid-19 on local authority duties. The society has replied that if the government is willing to legislate to ease duties on local authorities, it should also legislate for others who are in the same situation.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We note that the Business and Planning Bill 2019-2021 intends to allow an automatic extension of the time limit for implementing planning permissions which were due to expire before 31 December 2020, and to introduce other measures to assist developers who have been inconvenienced by the pandemic. It is therefore unjust not to assist the public who are endeavouring to record and protect land which ought to be registered as common or green. We are simply asking for a fair deal.’
(1)The seven pioneer areas with the deadline of 31 December 2020 are: Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, County of Herefordshire District Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Kent County Council, Lancashire County Council.