Nothing can be more frustrating for a developer to see its scheme delayed or worse still derailed by an application for the registration of land as a town or village green ("TVG"). Given the relative ease and low cost involved in making such applications the legislation introduced by the Commons Act 2006 could be open to abuse allowing those against development to issue an application simply to halt a scheme.
The Government's proposals published recently in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill will assist developers to avoid TVG applications.
The Bill provides two forms of protection:
The first is that it will not be possible to apply for registration of a TVG where planning permission has been granted, or applied for and publicised in respect of the land. The restriction will also apply where the local planning authority has identified the land for potential development as part of a local or neighbourhood plan, or included in a published draft of a relevant plan. If the planning permission expires without development or the status of the land in the development plans changes, the right to apply for registration is reinstated. In this case, the period during which an application was not permitted is disregarded when calculating the time limits for making an application for registration under the Commons Act 2006.
The second allows a developer to prevent local residents gaining any new rights by effectively ring fencing his property. In order to do this the developer will deposit a statement with the commons registration authority, together with a map showing the area of land affected. The statement will bring to an end any periods of use as of right that have accrued so that if the use has not been on-going for at least 20 years, it cannot be relied on to make a registration. The deposit of a statement will not prevent a new period of time running under the 2006 Act and so further statements may be required. The local authority will maintain a register of all statements which it will be possible to search.
In addition, the bill also introduces a fee for making an application. Existing TVGs will retain full protection and the registration of TVG's continues where no development is either proposed or the subject of community consultation. The introduction of these measures, which are expected to be in place by Summer 2013, ought to prevent much needed development from being sterilised or frustrated by the TVG process.