The 2006 Commons Act allows for an area to be registered as a town or village green if it has been used by locals for lawful sports and pastimes for at least 20 years.
Once an area has been registered as a town or village green it is protected by law. Over turning registration is a complex process requiring an application to the Secretary of State.
In the recent past some local communities opposed to development in their area have used the town and village green legislation to stall or block development schemes.
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill contains provisions that are intended to reform the town and village green application process. If these reforms become law it will become much more difficult for land to be registered as a town or village green.
The proposed reforms can be summarised as follows:
- It will no longer be possible to make a town or village green application where any of the trigger events listed in Schedule 4 of the Bill occur in relation to the land. Trigger events include publicity for a planning application, the granting of planning permission, adoption of a development plan and the making of a neighbourhood plan. The Secretary of State will have the power to insert additional trigger events and to amend/omit any trigger even. Any additional trigger event must be related to the development of the land. This new provision will apply to England only.
- Allowing an owner of land in England to deposit a statement and map with the relevant registration authority to bring to an end any period of use “as of right” for lawful sports and pastimes. The form of statement and map will be prescribed by regulation but will state that any use of the land by the public is thereafter with the landowner’s permission and therefore not “as of right”. This proposal should prevent any public use of the site then resulting in an application for registration as a town or village green.
- The introduction of new powers to allow the Secretary of State to permit enhanced fees to be charged for applications that amend town or village green registers. Again this power will apply to England only
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill is expected to become law and be brought into force by this summer. There is already anecdotal evidence of an increase in the number of TVG applications being made to pre-empt the proposed changes in the law. Watch this space.