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We have called on local authorities and developers throughout England and Wales to make 2017 the Year of the Village Green, by voluntary registering their land as greens.
The society urges developers to include registered village greens within their sites so that local people have a guaranteed green space for recreation which is preserved for ever. It also encourages local authorities to register their own land so that even if it is sold, it is protected.
The registration process, under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006, is simple. The only requirements are to provide proof of ownership, obtain the consent of any leaseholder or chargeholder, complete a form and send it to the commons registration authority (county or unitary council).
Once the land is registered as a town or village green, it is protected by nineteenth-century laws from development or encroachment, and local people have rights of informal recreation there.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘If a planning authority considers that a developer should offer a mitigating benefit to the neighbourhood, it can insist that the developer registers part of its site as a village green. That provides a real boon to local people.
‘We have persuaded Richmond Care Villages to dedicate as a green part of its development site at Coral Springs, Witney in west Oxfordshire. This was in exchange for the society’s withdrawal of its objection to the diversion of a footpath leading to open countryside, which RCV had illegally obstructed with buildings. The new green will give Witney people a pleasant space where they can enjoy informal recreation for ever more.
‘Local authorities can dedicate their land as a green to ensure that it remains open and available for public enjoyment, regardless of who owns it in future; this is especially important in these times of austerity, when authorities are looking to flog off their land and the public is likely to lose out.
‘Parish and community councils can also dedicate their land as green as, of course, can private landowners. This is a great way to secure green space for everyone to enjoy.
‘Regrettably, we have few examples of voluntary registrations. However, in 2015 Kent County Council registered the Old Putting Green at Montefiore Avenue, Ramsgate, as a green following an application from the landowner, Thanet District Council.
‘In 2011, Lancashire County Council registered Barnoldswick town green, on the application of the landowner, Pendle Borough Council.
‘But there should be many more. We say that 2017 should be the Year of the Green, when local authorities and developers dedicate new greens for public enjoyment and give the public secure rights of recreation.’
The society has written to the chief executives of the Local Government Association, the Welsh Local Government Association, the National Association of Local Councils and One Voice Wales, asking them to remind their members of the opportunity voluntarily to register their land as greens and to persuade planning authorities to require developers to do so.