The registration of land as a town or village green remains a critical consideration for landowners and occupiers due to, amongst other things, the restrictions upon the ability to develop and use the land.
Anyone can apply for land to be registered as a village green if certain criteria are met (being, broadly, that “a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years”).
Changes from 1 October 2013
On or after 1 October 2013 landowners can lodge a prescribed form statement and plan with the relevant authority to bring the use of the land for lawful sports and pastimes “as of right” to an end. This means if the use of the land for lawful sports and pastimes is:
under 20 years -
- the period of use is disregarded
- if the use continues the 20 year period restarts
- 20 years or more –
- an application to register the land as a green can be made within one year from the date the plan and statement is deposited with the relevant authority provided that the use ceases on or after 1 October 2013
The prescribed form statement acts as evidence of the landowner’s intention that the land should not be registered as a green. Landowners can combine their statement with the declaration required to prevent a footpath becoming a public right of way in an effort to minimise red tape. Statements made by landowners will be kept in a local authority register which is available for inspection.
Landowners can use these statements to great effect where their land has been used “as of right” for a period of less than 20 years. The period of use as a green restarts after the landowners statement has been submitted to the local authority – care must be taken to renew the statements (they are valid for 20 years only) and / or prevent rights qualifying for registration by licensing or preventing such use.
Difficulty comes where such use has been over 20 years as a savvy applicant will lodge their application to register the land as a green within the one year “cooling off period”. This period is a reduction of the previous two year cooling off period and as such will improve the position of a landowner considering development or change of use.