Welsh village greens rescued from damaging law-change

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We are delighted to have helped stop the Planning (Wales) Act from making devastating changes to village-green law.

The Planning (Wales) Act, which was finalised yesterday (19 May), was amended during its passage through the Welsh Assembly, thanks to the society’s campaign.  Assembly Members reversed several draconian measures which would have severely restricted the public’s opportunity to make applications for town and village greens and made countless green spaces vulnerable to development.

Local people can apply to register land which they have used for informal recreation for 20 years without interruption, challenge or permission.  Once registered, the land is protected from development.

Village green at Penpedairheol, Caerphilly. Photo: Steve Morgan

Village green at Penpedairheol, Caerphilly. Photo: Steve Morgan

When it was first introduced, the Planning (Wales) Bill copied England’s Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.  This made it much harder to register greens by outlawing applications for any land affected by development, and encouraged landowners to challenge recreational use of land after which local people had only one year in which to make an application.

The society had meetings with the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant, and gave oral evidence to the all-party Environment and Sustainability Committee which advised the Welsh Government on the bill.

In January 2015 the committee recommended amendments to the bill to protect town and village greens, as proposed by the society.  These reduced the planning events (known as ‘trigger events’) which prevent people from being able to apply to register land and gave people two years instead of one in which to apply to register land after use is challenged.

Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘We are delighted to have helped change this potentially damaging law so that people in Wales will still be able to apply to register their much-loved open spaces as village greens and protect them from development.

‘Welsh people are now better off than English people who have been restricted from registering land by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.

‘We were able to persuade the Welsh minister that there was no evidence to show that local people were abusing the greens process to stop development.

‘We congratulate the Welsh Assembly for upholding the rights of local people to enjoy their open spaces.’

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