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We have congratulated West Sussex County Council for taking a lead in helping all the planning authorities in its area to take account of registered common land and village greens when considering planning applications.
West Sussex has offered all the districts its most up-to-date GIS data layer for commons and greens which would enable the council to check for commons and green status when applications are registered.
The move was prompted by problems at Horsebridge Common at Ashurst in Horsham District where a planning application affects common land and it transpires that a previous application at this site also encroached upon the common.
West Sussex County Council has shown an excellent example in alerting its planning authorities to the importance of checking the commons and greens registers before considering a planning application.
It is illegal to build on, fence or otherwise develop a common without the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, and it is illegal to encroach upon a village green unless it is to assist local people to enjoy the land for informal recreation.
We hope the planning authorities in West Sussex will take up the offer of the GIS layer for their maps, and we urge all planning authorities in England and Wales to be vigilant about planning applications which affect commons and greens. Unfortunately, the planning application form does not include a compulsory question as to whether the application site is registered as common or green, and it may not occur to the applicant that this is a matter of importance.