High Court judgment puts many greens at risk2 min read

Today Mr Justice Morgan delivered judgment in the High Court on the case of Markham and Little Francis village green at Weymouth in Dorset.(1) Read it here The judge has determined that the land should not have been registered as a green, and has directed that it be removed from the register, thus laying it open to development.(2)

The 42-acre site was registered by Dorset County Council as a village green in 2001 under the Commons Registration Act 1965. In 2004 the land was purchased by prospective developers Betterment Properties Ltd which applied to the High Court to have the land struck from the register, challenging Dorset County Council’s decision-making procedure.

Markham and Little Francis village green

Markham and Little Francis village green

The case was heard in the High Court in June and, unusually, included a site visit. It was fought by the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis, a member of our society; we contributed £5,000 to the fighting fund. The Markham Society is now considering seeking leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the High Court judgment.

Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘We are dismayed at this outcome for Markham and Little Francis green. Not only does the judgment threaten this much-loved open space and green lung for local people, but it endangers the thousands of greens which were registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965. It will encourage landgrabbers to try to unpick those registrations and lay the land open to development.

‘This judgment must not remain unchallenged. We shall back the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis in seeking leave to appeal, for the benefit of all who cherish their town and village greens.’

1. The case is Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Limited v Dorset County Council and Mrs G Taylor (on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis), HC05C03912.

2. Markham and Little Francis green was registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 but the matter was delayed, and was finally determined by Dorset County Council after the greens-registration law had been changed by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Dorset therefore used that law in deciding the application in favour of a green. Betterment Properties argued that because the process had started under the 1965 Act it should have been completed under that Act and therefore the registration was void.

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