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Two new village greens have been registered in Kent: Four Acres Green in East Malling and Willow Road Green in Larkfield. Now they are protected for ever more.
Four Acres Green was set aside as a play area when the council estate was built in the 1960s. It has been used for informal recreation ever since. Two years ago the owner, the Housing Association, proposed to redevelop an adjoining garage site and the play area for new houses.
Residents objected and applied to Kent County Council (KCC) to register the land as a green, with evidence that they had used it for informal recreation, including ballgames, dog-walking and building snowmen.
In order for land to be registered as a green, local people must show that they have used it for informal recreation, for at least 20 years, without interruption, permission or secrecy.
After seeing the evidence, the Housing Association did not object and the KCC panel, which considers such applications, decided the land should be registered. The chairman of the panel congratulated the residents on the comprehensive nature of their evidence.
Says David Thornewell, the Open Spaces Society’s local correspondent and also a parish councillor: ‘It was good to be able to help with this application and to save the land from development. Since it was threatened with building, the registration as a green would not have been possible had the government’s Growth and Infrastructure Bill been in force.
‘This Bill will prevent people from registering land as a green if it is threatened with development. This damaging measure will take effect two months after enactment—and it could be enacted this month.’
Meanwhile, Willow Road Green was registered voluntarily by the owner, East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council, a member of the Open Spaces Society. This lovely space overlooks Castle Lake. The land was transferred to the parish council when the road was developed some years ago. David Thornewell urged the council to register it as a green to give it permanent protection.
Says David: ‘Many parish councils own similar areas and think the planning system will safeguard them in future. However, nowadays nothing is safe and a good way to protect the land is to register it as a green. If the registration is voluntary there is no need to prove 20 years’ use by local people.
‘The Open Spaces Society urges other parish councils voluntarily to register the land, giving local people rights to enjoy it and ensuring it won’t be developed in future.’