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Village Green or land for development?

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When is a Village Green not a Village Green?

In this blog post, Ian Riley, Director at Fishers Solicitors and Head of the Commercial Property Department discusses a recent case that tested new legislation concerning the registration of land as a Village Green.

In recent times, one of the ways to scupper plans for an unwelcome development has been to register the proposed site as a “Village Green".

This sounds like a straightforward description doesn’t it? However, although referred to as a village green, use of the phrases “green“, “Village Green“ or “Town and Village Green“ are slightly misleading. This is because successful registrations of "Village Greens" have been made when the land in question is a beach or even a large expanse of concrete!

However, it seems that the government has seen that these registrations of so called ‘Village Greens’ can be an abuse of process. New legislation was introduced in 2013 in the form of the Growth and Infrastructure Act which was an amendment to the Commons Act of 2006. This legislation now makes it more difficult for land with potential for development to be sterilised by a Village Green application.

The amended legislation has been tested (and the policy guiding the amends was reinforced) by the recent case of Wiltshire Council V Cooper Estates Strategic Land Limited [2019].

In this test case, the land in question had been included in the Council's Core Strategy Development Plan. Because of this, it was decided by the Court of Appeal that the land was ineligible for registration as a green.  As always in legal cases, various arguments were raised. One of the key arguments centred around the nature and status of the land within the Council‘s development plan. The Commons Act 2006 does not require the land to be identified "for development“, rather it must be identified “for potential development".

The court also applied a presumption in favour of sustainable development. They decided that because the land had been identified for potential development in the original plan then it would frustrate the general objectives of that plan if the land were to be registered as a Village Green.

It is interesting that government policy (via the new legislation) appears to favour development, possibly seeking to ensure that fewer barriers are put in place to prevent the achievement of the goal of building more new homes. However, this case does not mean that you can no longer register a piece of land as a Village Green and registration is still possible to achieve.

Have you been affected by anything discussed in this article or would you like more advice or information about the registration of Village Greens? If so, please contact our Commercial Property Team and we will be happy to assist.

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