New law to protect village greens

Land used for recreation for 20 years now has improved legal protection.

The nation’s oldest conservation group is celebrating a new law that will make it harder for landowners to sell or build on village greens.

Open Spaces Society said land used for recreation for two decades now enjoyed more protection from owners who decided to change its use.

Nicola Hodgson, case officer for the 142-year-old group, said: "It will make it easier for people to apply to register land as a green, saving it from development."

There are 3,870 registered greens in England and Wales, and people can apply to register land as a green if has been used publicly for at least 20 years. Before the law change, public use had to continue right up until its formal registration. An application to the local authority could therefore be thwarted if a landowner put up "keep off" signs when notified of the application but before registration.

Section 15 of the Commons Act, which came into force last week, did away with that get-out clause, said the society.

General secretary Kate Ashbrook said: "This is really important for communities that want to save space for public use but find it is suddenly threatened. Before the change they had very little chance against the landowner."

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