For many years it has been possible under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 to deposit a statement and map with the local highway authority setting out any public rights of way which are registered as crossing a piece of land. Such a statement has the effect of preventing any new rights of way arising across land for a period of 10 years from the date of deposit.
Up until now, there has been no provision to be able to deposit such a statement with regard to town and village greens. The only way to prevent town and village green rights from arising has been either to lease the land to a user, or to fence it in, or erect and maintain signage and take preventative measures to stop users from acquiring rights to use the land for recreational purposes as a town or village green.
The Government has introduced regulations which will come into force on 1 October 2013 (in England only) to the effect that a landowner in England may deposit a statement and map for the purpose of bringing to an end a period of recreational use, as of right, on the landowner’s land.
The new form of deposit statement will jointly cover rights of way and town & village green rights.
Once a statement has been deposited, the local authority has a duty to publicise it and there is a 60 day period for any objections to be raised. Once that period has expired, the piece of land in question will be protected against the acquisition of new town and village green rights.
Additionally, the procedure for renewing the statement – by way of a declaration – is made easier (formerly a statutory declaration was required but as from 1 October 2013 an ordinary declaration will suffice) to extend the period of effect of the deposit statement. Also, the period within which such a declaration can be lodged has been extended from 10 years to 20 years.
This change is of particular help to landowners who own large pieces of open land which are often used by members of the public, such as hospitals, local authority land, educational sites or other large pieces of land.
All clients who have such landholdings are advised to consider making statements of deposit, protecting against new rights of way, or town, or village green rights from arising.