Law guiding the protection of Village Greens

Town and village greens (TVGs) are protected by ancient legislation.  Under section 29 of the Commons Act 1876, together with section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857, a person who

    1. encroaches on, or encloses, a town or village green or a recreation ground allotted by an inclosure award, or
    2. erects anything on, or disturbs or interferes with that green or ground otherwise than for its better enjoyment for its proper purpose,
    3. may, on the information of any inhabitant of the parish in which the green is situated, be summarily convicted by the magistrates’ court and fined at level 1 on the standard scale.

      Whitchurch Green, Bristol, registered 2011

The terms of section 12 are wide and cover any act which injures the TVG or interrupts its use as a place for exercise and recreation. Local people have a legal right to use the whole of a TVG for lawful sports and pastimes. Section 29 also covers permanent encroachment or enclosure, for instance fencing off part of a green for private use. Proceedings can be issued in the magistrates' court where there is evidence of a breach.

However, an offence (under the legislation) is only committed where the encroachment or activity is made 'otherwise than with a view to the better enjoyment of the green'. Provision of facilities to assist in the enjoyment of recreation, such as goal posts, children’s playground, seats etc, would not be a breach of the legislation.

For further guidance, please refer to Defra (Management & protection of registered town and village greens) or GOV.UK (Manage your town or village green).

Further resources about protecting village and town greens

  • Driving and parking on your local green space

    Residents often want to be able to stop cars and other vehicles, from being driven and parked on their local open space. There are several legal powers which can assist...

  • By-laws for TVG, commons and other open spaces

    Special conditions apply to TVG depending on which acts the green is subject to.

  • A problem solved

    Read some of the Open Spaces Society's advice and case studies relating to problems when protecting land.

  • Getting Greens Registered

    Download our Getting Greens Registered PDF - a step-by-step guide on how to go about applying for Village Green registration.

  • Prosecuting an offence on a village green

    Laying an information – how to prosecute someone in a magistrates’ court for a criminal offence on a town or village green.