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We have responded robustly to an outburst from the Local Government Association today on new village greens.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The LGA has not produced hard evidence to back its allegation that people are applying for village green status in order to block development.
‘The LGA implies that this happens frequently. In fact it is much more likely that, when developers threaten much-loved land, people realise that they have taken it for granted for too long, and want to secure their long-enjoyed rights there. They can do this by applying to register the land as a town or village green.
‘We deplore proposals by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, backed by the LGA, to introduce a character test, whereby only those greens which conform with a subjective view of a “traditional” green can be registered. Local people should be able to register any bit of land, however out-of-the-way or scruffy, where they have enjoyed 20 years of informal recreation, without being stopped or asking permission.
‘The LGA seems to assume that applications to register land occupied by beach huts or a car-park are false and vexatious—but local people can enjoy recreation around beach huts, and on a car-park when it is not being used for parking. It’s all a matter of fact and degree. These areas may be eligible for registration.
‘We consider that the ability to register any land where local people have accrued rights of recreation should be preserved. If planning permission has already been granted or the land identified for development in a local plan, there should be a period of grace to enable people to submit their evidence of use as a green.
‘However, we have long advocated improvements to the registration process which do not involve changes in the law. The LGA response to some extent chimes with our own proposals.
‘We have therefore written to ask the LGA for a meeting so that we can discuss our areas of agreement, and to see if we can jointly press for these improvements to the process,’ Kate concludes.