When a developer has owned a plot of land for some while, waiting for the appropriate time to develop, it is extremely frustrating for that development to be delayed or at worst completely prevented by the registration of that land as a town or village green (TVG).  There is a concern that the current rules are being abused in order to prevent development.  Because of this, the Government intends to assist developers in this situation by proposed changes to the law outlined in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill published last Thursday. 

Two forms of protection will be introduced.  The first provides 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 that 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. Further regulations will be made to clarify as to when a trigger event is to be treated as having occurred and may specify additional trigger or terminating events.  It will then be known if a developer can thwart an application for registration as a TVG by submitting a planning application.

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 form of protection would allow a landowner to ring fence his property to prevent local residents gaining any new rights.  In this way, the landowner could permit others to use his land without fear of a registration as a TVG.  Ring fencing takes place by the deposit of 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 ongoing for at least 20 years, it cannot be relied on to make a registration.  In effect the statement acts as a legal challenge to the use of the land “as of right”.  The deposit of a statement does not prevent a new period of time running to make up the 20 years necessary for an application and so further statements may be required.

A searchable register of all statements made under this legislation must be maintained by the local authority.

As a further method of discouragement of TVG registration, the bill also provides for the introduction of fees for making an application.  Existing TVGs will retain full protection and the registration can continue where no development is either proposed or the subject of ongoing community consultation.  The measures are expected to come into force by summer 2013.