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We have welcomed a decision to retain part of Longhorsley village green, which the parish council wanted to convert to a private driveway.
Longhorsley Parish Council wanted to sell off around 54 square metres of Longhorsley green, in this case part of the verge of East Road, in the Northumberland village east of the junction with the A697. The land would have been sold to enable a driveway as part of the redevelopment of adjoining land at Kirkups Corner.
The verge is a remnant of the unenclosed wastes of the village, registered as town or village green by the parish council, and subsequently vested in the parish council in 1982 . In order to dispose of the land free of any constraints, the parish council had to apply to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to deregister the land under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006.
The society objected to the application, pointing out that it was the secretary of state’s policy published in 2015 to grant such an application, where no other land was offered in substitution, only in exceptional circumstances.
The inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, Ms C Beeby BA (Hons) MIPROW, agreed. In her decision of 3 October 2022, she refused consent, finding: ‘The absence of replacement land results in a reduction in the verdant and rural appearance of the village as a whole’. Inspector Beeby concludes that ‘The secretary of state’s policy is not to allow the stock of common land and village greens to diminish’, and in the absence of a wider public interest and any offer of replacement land, the application by the parish council should be refused.
Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers, said: ‘This is one of several recent decisions in which inspectors have made clear that the secretary of state’s policy means what it says: even small areas of town or village green should not be deregistered without an offer of replacement land, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances. It would save everyone time and expense if applicants accepted that it is the policy, and offered worthwhile replacement land from the off. Until they do, we shall continue to oppose applications which are more about private than public benefit.’