Time is running out for village greens

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‘Time is running out for our town and village greens.’ So says the society as the House of Lords is set to debate on Tuesday (12 March) the threat to greens posed by the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

The bill has reached report stage and we are urging members of the House of Lords to support amendments which will prevent the government from emasculating the process for registering land as town or village greens.

Land can be registered as a town or village green if local people have used it for informal recreation, without being stopped or asking permission, for at least 20 years. Once registered, the land is protected from development.

Explains our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘This appears to be our last chance to save the right of local people to secure their precious spaces. The government claims, with little evidence, that greens registration is stopping and delaying development. Clause 14 of the Growth Bill says that once land has been earmarked for development, even if that has been done in secret, it cannot be registered as a green.

‘Lord Greaves has tabled amendments to mitigate the effect of the government’s proposals and at least give local people a chance to register their greens before the guillotine comes down.

Chadderton Field, Newcastle-upon-Tyne which would not have been registered under the proposed new legislation

‘Otherwise it will be grossly unfair for local people who will not know that the land they love is threatened until it is too late to save it.

‘It is also an attack on the age-old law of custom and practice, whereby if someone has enjoyed informal recreation on an area of land for 20 years he or she can apply for that activity to be recognised as a right for local people.

‘There are many greens which have been registered in the last few years which were under threat and whose registration would be outlawed by the bill.

‘We have long argued that there should be improvements to the greens-registration process, involving change to the regulations not the law, but these have been ignored by ministers. Our proposals include the introduction of timescales at every stage, empowerment of registration authorities (county and unitary councils) to reject truly vexatious applications, and greater liaison and transparency between registration and planning departments.

‘These would meet ministers’ concerns without rewriting the existing law,’ Kate explains.

‘Local communities will have only two months after the bill gains royal assent in which to register land which is being eyed-up for development. So they should be identifying eligible land right now and putting in an application for a green. The cut-off date is only a few weeks away—by this summer it could be too late.’

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