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‘Henley-on-Thames Town Council has set an excellent example in registering its land as village greens and thus protecting it for ever.’ So declared Kate Ashbrook, the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, in an online talk to Henley Rotary Club on Tuesday (2 March).
‘The council, which is a member of the society, has voluntarily registered Gillotts Field in 2010 and Freemans Meadow in 2020. Both are important open spaces which are enjoyed by the public. By registering them as greens the council has given local people the legal right to enjoy them and has protected them from development and encroachment,’ Kate explained.
The society is encouraging landowners throughout England and Wales to follow this lead and to register land as greens, to protect these vital public assets in the face of development.
Kate spoke about the history of the society, which is based in Henley and covers the whole of England and Wales. It is Britain’s oldest national conservation body and campaigns to protect common land, village greens, other open spaces and public paths, and it defends people’s rights to enjoy them.
 Any landowner can dedicate land as a town or village green, under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006. Once the land is dedicated, local people have rights of informal recreation there, and the land is protected from encroachment and development for ever more under section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and section 29 of the Commons Act 1876.