Developers and councils urged to register land as village greens

The Open Spaces Society has launched a campaign to urge planning authorities and developers to voluntarily register land as village greens.

Barnoldswick Green was registered in 2011. Image: Open Spaces Society
Barnoldswick Green was registered in 2011. Image: Open Spaces Society

The society has written to the chief executives of the Local Government Association, the Welsh Local Government Association, the National Association of Local Councils and One Voice Wales, asking them to remind their members they can voluntarily register their land as greens, and to persuade planning authorities to require developers to do so.

This would protect pockets of land from development even if sold, something which the society says is more important as austerity cuts continue to bite. It is also calling on developers to include registered village greens within their sites.

General secretary Kate Ashbrook said: "If a planning authority considers that a developer should offer a mitigating benefit to the neighbourhood, it can insist that the developer registers part of its site as a village green. That provides a real boon to local people."

The Open Spaces Society has already negotiated a village green at the Richmond Care Villages Coral Springs site in Witney, Oxfordshire in change for the society’s withdrawal of its objection to the diversion of a footpath leading to open countryside, which RCV had obstructed with buildings. 

Ashbrook said: "Regrettably, we have few examples of voluntary registrations. However, in 2015 Kent County Council registered the Old Putting Green at Montefiore Avenue, Ramsgate, as a green following an application from the landowner, Thanet District Council.

"In 2011, Lancashire County Council registered Barnoldswick town green, on the application of the landowner, Pendle Borough Council. But there should be many more. We say that 2017 should be the Year of the Green, when local authorities and developers dedicate new greens for public enjoyment and give the public secure rights of recreation."

Town and village greens can be any land which has been enjoyed by local people for 20 years, without being stopped or asking permission. However, if a landowner wishes voluntarily to register land as a green, he or she may do so (under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006) on proof of ownership and with the consent of any leaseholder or chargeholder. The Act also made it easier to register land as a village green, leading to twice as many applications for the status in 2007, compared to 2006. 

Once registered the land is protected by section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and section 29 of the Commons Act 1876, and local people have rights of recreation there.

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