We are supporting our member the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis at a hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday (15 January 2014).
The local society will seek to persuade the court to uphold the registration of the village green on the outskirts of Weymouth, Dorset. This is the last chance to save the land from development so that local people can continue to enjoy it for recreation.
The single issue for the court to consider is the length of time the land was registered as a village green before the landowner, Betterment Properties Ltd, started proceedings to remove the registration.
The 42-acre site was registered by Dorset Council County as a village green in 2001. In 2004 the land was purchased by prospective developers, Betterment Properties Ltd. Four years after the council registered the land, Betterment applied to the High Court to have it removed from the register. The case was then considered by the Court of Appeal in March 2012. The court ruled that the delay in making the appeal was not against the rules of natural justice.
Says our case officer Nicola Hodgson: ‘We are supporting the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis and have contributed to its fighting fund. If left unchallenged, this case poses a threat to the many greens which were registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965, and we would lose this lovely green space at Weymouth.’
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. This Act amended slightly the criteria required to register land as a village green, in particular making it more flexible for people in urban areas to register (neighbourhood within a locality). 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.
It was argued by the village-green applicants that, the time delay (four years) before Betterment applied to amend the register was against the rules of natural justice. If it had been a judicial review of the application of the decision by Dorset County Council it would have had to be made within three months.