Introduction to Town and Village Greens

AuthorWilliam Webster/Robert Weatherley


Introduction to Town and Village Greens

9.1 Since the decision of the House of Lords in Oxfordshire County Council ex parte Sunningwell Parish Council,1there has been a torrent of litigation involving new greens and the legal landscape has also undergone wholesale reform with the coming into force on 6 April 2007 of section 15 of the CA 2006.

9.2 The idea that a village green is a grassy area, usually in a village, where for centuries people played cricket, drank warm beer and danced around a maypole is far removed from present-day reality. The position now is that applications to register land as a village green are a powerful weapon in the hands of those who want such land protected against development. Land can now all too easily qualify for registration as a village green, often on the basis of little more than walking a dog. In response to this, Parliament introduced reforms in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 which should, in practice, make it less easy to register land, but because of budgetary constraints, most registration authorities still have a backlog of pending applications which will have to be dealt with under the old law.

9.3 The village green process is quite unlike the planning process where an applicant for planning permission has no entitlement to permission and, in its decision whether to grant it, a local planning authority has to exercise an administrative discretion in accordance with the development plan and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).2In the case of new greens, the registration authority is bound to register if the qualifying criteria for registration contained in section 15 of the CA 2006 are met, irrespective of whether it thinks it would be a good or bad thing to do so. Indeed, unless a landowner is able to take advantage of the reforms introduced in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, the registration of land as a village green will trump a planning permission, resulting in massive financial loss to the landowner and a local community being deprived of land which may be eminently developable. Such sites are very often badly needed for regeneration, affordable housing projects and formal open space, all of which will be precluded if the land is registered as a green.

9.4 A landowner receives no compensation for the burden of owning land which is registered as a village green. More often than not, land subject to registration as a village green is usually...

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