“We submitted our planning application in an established residential area, and were almost immediately facing a town and village green claim.”

How often have you heard something similar?  It was said to me only earlier this week, which was timely given the proposals in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, for new measures intended to prevent applications for new town and village greens from being used “to cut across the democratically accountable planning system” (Michael Fallon, MP, Minister at BIS, in the committee stage of the Bill on 13 November 2012).

It’s the vexatious claims for town and village green status that everyone is keen to see stopped, a point amply highlighted by respondents to the recent DEFRA consultation on changes to the law.  An initial “sift” system is favoured, to weed out "poor" applications early in the process and so help deter “speculative, vexatious and “holding” applications” put forward simply to delay proposed development.  Such a system will require clear guidelines, with safeguards for transparency and fairness, so as not to prejudice legitimate and genuine applications. 

The Bill proposes that landowners should be able to make protective declarations in relation to their land, flush out potential applications for registration, and protect against future applications.

And to end where I started, presently, two systems (planning and town and village green registrations) run in parallel and that leads to complexity, uncertainty and cost – which developers, landowners, local councils and applicants alike should be looking to avoid.  If the provisions in the Bill are passed into law, and these two systems can (as the Penfold Review suggested they should) dovetail, then once land is designated for development in a neighbourhood or local plan, or subject to a planning application, or consented for development, it will fall out of the town and village green application process.