Landowner statements and the threat to town and village greens in England
What is a landowner statement or deposit?
Owners of open space where the public have used the land as of right for recreation, can make a challenge under Section 15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006 to those rights. (As of right means without force, secrecy or permission).
A landowner statement or deposit brings to an end any period of use of the land as of right for informal recreation. This means that the number of years of use is paused. If the land has been used for fewer than 20 years, a deposited statement prevents the users obtaining the 20 years they need in order for the land to qualify for town or village green protection.
When owners deposit a landowner statement in relation to their land, but recreational use has already taken place on it for 20 years or more, the deposit triggers a one-year period of grace. This gives the local community one year to apply to register the land as a town or village green. The local community cannot apply any later than one year from the date of the deposit.
If recreational use of the land as of right continues after a landowner statement is deposited, a new period of use will begin to accrue. If another landowner statement is deposited within 20 years of the previous deposit, it will again prevent the users reaching 20 years – the clock will be reset to zero years.
The right to recreational use of an open space by local people now needs to be defended within a year of a new landowner statement
Under section 15A of the Commons Act 2006, a landowner can deposit a statement and map which bring to an end any period of recreational use of the land which was ‘as of right’. Once such a statement is deposited with the commons registration authority (county or unitary council), local people have only one year in which to apply for village green status. Previously they had two years from the date of challenge.
The notice of challenge to use of a green must be published on the commons registration authority’s website for at least 60 days, and posted at or near at least one entry point to the land for the same period. However, if the site notices are removed, there is no requirement to replace them, so people could easily not know that their use was being challenged.
The landowner must deposit a further statement and map within 20 years.
How do I find out about landowner statements that may threaten my local open space?
Registration authorities hold a register of landowner statements and must serve notice by email on anyone who has asked to be informed. The society has written to all the registration authorities to ask to be notified. You too should contact your registration authority if you wish to be notified of any landowner statements.
How can I keep a step ahead of landowner plans to restrict access?
You should gather evidence of use and submit an application to register land which the public has used as of right for 20+ years before the landowner deposits a statement, otherwise you will have little time in which to do this.
This provision has been brought in simultaneously with the updated section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 whereby landowners may deposit statements and maps declaring the routes on their land which they acknowledge to be public. These too must be renewed every 20 years.
Further resources about landowner statements in England
Town or Village Green claimants preparation for and participation in public inquiries
We look at matters that apply to the period in a green claim process after all the evidence has been gathered, the claim has been submitted and accepted, all subsequent exchanges have been concluded and the registration authority is arranging to hold a public inquiry.