Welsh Government’s threat to village greens

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We have responded robustly to the Welsh Government’s draft Planning Bill in which it proposes to prohibit the registration of land as a town or village green where it has been identified for development.

The government also plans to enable landowners to deposit statements with the registration (unitary) authority, challenging people’s use of the land for recreation.

At present, local people can apply to register land as a green if they have enjoyed it for 20 years for informal recreation, without being stopped or given permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development.

Village green at Bishop's Grove, Sketty, Swansea, registered in 2008

Village green at Bishop’s Grove, Sketty, Swansea, registered in 2008

Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘These proposals strike a blow at the heart of local communities, preventing them from securing the land they have long enjoyed. Many people won’t even be aware that land is threatened with development until it is too late to save it.

‘We are dismayed that the Welsh Government wants to copy the Westminster Government’s egregious Growth and Infrastructure Act and to introduce the same damaging changes to the law.

‘We have suggested instead that, before allocating land for development, planning authorities must be satisfied that the land is not capable of being registered as a green. If the land is eligible for registration, the authority must allow local people sufficient time to gather evidence and submit an application. That application should be determined before the planning application. This would give local people a chance.

‘People generally take for granted their customary use of land for recreation and play. It is only when that land is under threat that they realise they must record their rights in order to save them.

‘The Welsh Government claims that it has evidence that applications for registration as a green are being used to frustrate development. Where is that evidence? Our belief is that people naturally want to save land which they have enjoyed.

‘It is not necessary to change the law in order to improve the village-green process. It is possible to speed up and streamline the system by amending the regulations and guidance (read more here).’ Nicola continues.

‘We have told the Welsh Government how it might do this, by introducing time limits at every stage and giving authorities the power to reject vexatious applications at the start. We also propose greater dialogue between the registration and planning departments in local authorities so that there are no surprises.

‘We fear that a change in the law could put a stop to communities being able to secure the land they love. We have many examples of groups who are trying to register greens to do just that.’

Examples of greens which have not yet been registered and are threatened with development include:

  • Trefforest, Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • Saltney Ferry, Flintshire
  • Cae Glas, Kingsland, Holyhead
  • Talybont, Ceredigion
  • Land at Abergele, Conwy

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