Campaigners square up to Government in battle to register village greens

Campaigners have hit back at MPs who claim applications to register land as village greens can undermine the democratically accountable planning process.

The Open Spaces Society, which sent a briefing to politicians on the eve of a key debate this week on the growth and infrastructure bill, claimed "people vote for greens with their feet". 

The society is urging MPs to oppose clause 14 of the bill, which will prevent local people from registering land as a green if it has been identified for development. The government proposes to stop people from applying to register land once a ‘trigger event’ has occurred. 

Such trigger events could be a planning application or identification of the land for potential development in a local or neighbourhood plan. The trigger event puts an immediate stop to any new application to register land as a green.

"Yet the trigger event may not even be public," said Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook. "It is wrong to say registering land as a green is not part of the democratic process. It is definitely part of that process because people are voting with their feet. 

"Land can only be registered if a significant number of local people have used it for informal recreation for 20 years. Probably many more people will be enjoying the green space than will be aware there is a development plan or a planning application in the offing.

Ashbrook said that taking land for development without giving people the opportunity to record and protect their rights was undemocratic.

"Those who use local open spaces are not necessarily clued up about, or involved in, the neighbourhood planning process.

"They cannot be expected to know or realise there is a potential threat to their rights.  Government wants to stop so-called ‘vexatious’ applications to register greens which, it claims, are being used to block development. 

"We advise about 150 community groups and individuals each year on their applications to register greens and know few are applying purely to prevent development. Most applications are genuine. The Government’s proposals are unfair to local communities."


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