Court cases – Town and village greens

We publish a commentary for most decisions in the courts about town or village green registration cases. You can find a list of these cases below, together with a link to our commentary or to a report of the case on the website of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute where available.

Case listing and analysis

2017 to date

  • Moorside Fields and Leach Grove Wood

    R (on the application of Lancashire County Council) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs conjoined with R (on the application of NHS Property Services Ltd)  v Surrey County Council

    Supreme Court judgement 2019

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2018

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: The circumstances in which the concept of “statutory incompatibility” will defeat an application to register land as a town or village green where the land is held by a public authority for statutory purposes.

  • Leach Grove Wood, Leatherhead

    R (on the application of NHS Property Services Ltd) v Surrey County Council and Jones

    High Court 2016

    Key issues: Registration of land held by public body other than for public recreation (statutory incompatibility); whether council could depart from inspector’s conclusion on test of neighbourhood within a locality.

  • Moorside Fields, Lancaster

    Lancashire County Council v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Bebbington

    High Court 2016

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: Registration of land held by local authority and annexed to school: whether evidence held for education purposes; whether registration of education authority land incompatible with statutory purposes; definition of locality; whether residence of users must be distributed across locality (‘spread’).

  • Vowley View, Royal Wootton Bassett

    Wiltshire Council v Cooper Estates Strategic Land Ltd and Gosnell and Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council

    Court of Appeal 2019

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    High Court 2018

    Key issues: Key policies in an adopted core strategy identified land for ‘potential development’, meaning a trigger event had occurred which precluded registration as a town or village green.

  • Allen’s Quay, Mistley

    T W Logistics Ltd v Essex County Council and Tucker

    Court of Appeal 2018

    High Court 2017

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: Whether part of the working port of Mistley had been properly registered as a town or village green and whether use of quay by trucks etc would preclude registration if such use became illegal following registration.

  • Meadow Triangle, Cambridge

    R (on the application of St John’s College) v Cambridgeshire County Council and Davies

    High Court 2017

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: The initial role of the commons registration authority on a s15 application to register a town or village green is to decide whether the application is duly made and therefore procedurally compliant with the regulatory requirements. The government’s guidance on these aspects was criticised (and redrafted in the judgment). 

2016-2011

  • Humpty Hill, Faringdon

    R (on the application of Alloway and Pocock) v Oxfordshire County Council and Stewart

    High Court 2016

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: The High Court upholds the registration of land in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, as a town green, dismissing the challenge that the inspector had wrongly assessed use of paths around the edge of the land as nevertheless contributing to overall use of the land as a green, and rejecting, once again, the argument that the origin of users must be spread across the whole locality.

  • West Beach, Newhaven

    Newhaven Port & Properties Ltd v East Sussex County Council, Newhaven Town Council and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    Supreme Court 2015

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2013 (human rights compatibility)

    Court of Appeal 2013

    High Court 2011

    Key issues: The role of a statutory port authority and its powers to make byelaws were incompatible with the registration of the land as a town or village green.

  • Helredale playing field

    R (on the application of Barkas) v North Yorkshire County Council and Barkas

    Supreme Court 2014

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2012

    High Court 2011

    Key issues: Registration of land owned by local authority; land held in trust for recreation; implied licence or permission to use land; Beresford overturned.

  • Clayton Fields, Edgerton

    Adamson v Paddico (267) Ltd, Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council, Magee and Hardy

    Supreme Court 2014

    Court of Appeal

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    High Court 2011

    Key issues: The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against the High Court’s decision, in June 2011, to reverse the registration of land as a town or village green. The Court of Appeal held that land should not have been registered because the inhabitants did not come from a single locality and confirmed that there was no alternative locality on which the application could have been based. However, it held that rectification of the register was not just and fair because the landowner had taken nearly 13 years to apply for rectification.

  • Markham and Little Francis Fields

    Taylor (on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis) v Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd and Dorset County Council

    Supreme Court 2014 

    Court of Appeal 2012

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    High Court 2010

    Key issues: The Court of Appeal held that the 46 acres of land at Markham and Little Francis, Weymouth in Dorset, should not have been registered as a village green under s22(1) of the Commons Registration Act 1965 and that it was just to rectify the register under s14 of that Act. The court considered whether use of the land was ‘as of right’ and whether it was just to rectify the register. The court held that delay between the registration of the land and the application to rectify the register (9 years) could be a factor but it was not held to be here, and it was just to remove the land from the register. 

  • Bushfield Camp, Winchester

    Church Commissioners for England and Hampshire County Council and Guthrie

    High Court 2013

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: Whether an application can be corrected retrospectively, and the definition of ‘reasonable opportunity’ in the regulations for the time allowed for making corrections.

  • Merton Green, Caerwent

    BDW Trading Ltd (t/a Barratt Homes) v Spooner (representing the Merton Green Action Group) and Melin Homes Ltd

    High Court 2011

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: Village green rights can be overridden by rights of development in certain circumstances, so that the protective provisions of section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and 29 of the Commons Act 1876 do not apply to the land. The circumstances are that the land has been appropriated by a local authority under section 122 of the Local Government Act 1972 for planning purposes, notwithstanding that it is a common or village green. 

  • Yeadon Banks, Leeds

    Leeds Group plc v Leeds City Council

    Court of Appeal 2011 (retrospective effect, human rights compatibility)

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2011

    High Court 2010

    Key issues: In December 2010 Leeds Group, which owns 2.2 hectares known as Yeadon Banks, lost its claim in the Court of Appeal that Leeds City Council was wrong to register the land as a town green. However, the group was given permission to bring a second challenge in the Appeal Court on the grounds that the new definition of town and village greens, introduced by section 98 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (the 2000 act), is in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 because of its retrospective effect in this and other cases. The appeal was rejected.

2010 and prior
  • Coatham Common, Redcar

    R (on the application of Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Persimmon Homes plc

    Supreme Court 2010

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Court of Appeal 2009

    High Court 2008

    Key issues: The Supreme Court has ruled that Coatham Common, Redcar is to be registered as a village green. The judgment was that ‘deference’ by local people to the landowner’s use of the land did not prevent their recreational use being as of right. 

  • Trap Grounds, Oxford

    Oxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council and Robinson

    House of Lords 2006

    Open Spaces Society commentary 

    Court of Appeal 2005

    High Court 2004

    Key issues: Whether registration of land as a green, based on 20 years lawful sports and pastimes, gives the relevant inhabitants rights to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes on the land, and whether registration brings the land within the scope of section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and section 29 of the Commons Act 1876, which protect the land from encroachment. A further issue was whether a claim may be founded on qualifying user for any period of 20 years, or whether the lawful sports and pastimes must continue up to the date of the application to register, the date of
    registration or some other date.

  • Whitmey Case

    R (on the application of Whitmey) v Commons Commissioners

    Court of Appeal 2004

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: The judges concluded that the commons commissioners have no jurisdiction for registering greens in a dispute arising under section 13 of the Commons Registration Act 1965.

  • Sports Arena, Washington

    R v City of Sunderland ex parte Beresford

    House of Lords 2003

    Open Spaces Society commentary 

    Court of Appeal 2001 

    High Court 2000 

    Key issues: This case considered the meaning of the phrase ‘as of right’. The encouragement of the use of the land by the provision of benches and regular cutting of the grass reinforced, rather than undermined, the impression that local people were using the area ‘as of right’. [Partly overturned by the Supreme Court in the Helredale playing field case 2014]

  • Widmer Farm, Hazlemere

    R (on the application of Laing Homes Ltd) v Buckinghamshire County Council and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    High Court 2003

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: Laing Homes, which had bought the land in 1963 with a view to developing it for housing, applied to the court to quash Buckinghamshire County Council's decision to register the land on a number of grounds.

  • Ladydale Meadow, Leek

    R (on the application of Alfred McAlpine Homes Ltd) v Staffordshire County Council

    High Court 2003

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: The judgement ruled that a registration authority could register a part of the land for which an application was made, and that ‘significant’ is a matter of impression after analysing the evidence. What matters is that the number of people using the land is sufficient to indicate that it is in general used by the inhabitants of any locality or neighbourhood within a locality

  • The Glebe, Sunningwell

    R v Oxfordshire County Council and others, ex parte Sunningwell Parish Council

    House of Lords 1999

    Open Spaces Society commentary

    Key issues: The judgment significantly changes the criteria by which registration authorities are required to determine applications to register town or village greens and defines ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ and ‘as of right’.

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