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Can their lordships save our greens?

January 29, 2013






The Open Spaces Society,(1) the champion of town and village greens, has called on members of the House of Lords to support amendments to the Growth Bill which will prevent the government from emasculating the process for registering land as town or village greens.(2)  The House of Lords is set to debate these tomorrow (Wednesday 30 January).

Land can be registered as a town or village green if local people have used it for informal recreation, without being stopped or asking permission, for at least 20 years.  Once registered, the land is protected from development.

Explains the society’s general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘This is our last-ditch attempt to save the right of local people to secure their precious spaces.  The government claims, with little evidence, that greens registration is stopping and delaying development.  Clause 14 of the Growth Bill says that once land has been earmarked for development, even if that has been done in secret, it cannot be registered as a green.

‘This is grossly unfair for local people who will not know that the land they love is threatened until it is too late to save it.  It is also an assault on the age-old law of custom and practice, whereby if someone has enjoyed informal recreation on an area of land for 20 years he or she can apply for that activity to be recognised as a right for local people.

‘We are pleased that Lord Greaves and other peers have tabled amendments to mitigate the effect of clause 14.  We are calling on other members of the House of Lords to back these amendments.  There are amendments opposing the measures as a whole, and others which allow a period of grace for people to apply to register land once they learn that it is under threat.

‘There are many greens which have been registered in the last few years which were under threat and whose registration would be outlawed by the Bill.

‘We have long argued that there should be improvements to the greens-registration process, involving change to the regulations not the law.  These include the introduction of timescales at every stage, empowerment of registration authorities (county and unitary councils) to reject truly vexatious applications, and greater liaison and transparency between registration and planning departments.  Ministers have ignored our proposals – yet they would meet ministers’ concerns without firing the Growth Bill’s torpedo through the existing legislation.

‘Now we look to the Lords to help us save the process for registering greens.  There is little time left,’ Kate concludes.



Examples of much-loved land which has recently been registered as a town or village green, but which would have been caught by the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

Barnsley, Cadwell, Cudworth (2009)

Bristol, The Green, Pucklechurch (2012)

Bristol, Whitchurch Green (2011)

Bucks, Pimms Close, High Wycombe (2006)

Calderdale, Crowtrees Lane, Rastrick (2009)

Cheshire West and Chester, Land at Flashes Lane, Weston (2011)

Devon, Sugary Green, Dartmouth (2011)

Devon, Lower Park, Palk Close, Shaldon (2011)

East Sussex, Herbrand Walk, Bexhill-on-Sea (2011)

Essex, Brighton Road, Clacton-on-Sea (2012)

Essex, Eastleigh Park, Basildon (2009)

Gloucestershire, Bredon Road, Tewkesbury (2008)

Hampshire, Mengham Park, Hayling Island (2009)

Hertfordshire, Waterside at St Albans (2012)

Hertfordshire, Woodcock Road, Borehamwood (2008)

Kirklees, Clayton Fields, Huddersfield (2012)

Leeds, Yeadon Banks (2012)

Lincolnshire, Earlsfield Estate, Grantham (2008)

London Borough of Southwark, King’s Stairs Garden (2011)

Newcastle upon Tyne, Chadderton Field (2011)

Northamptonshire, Oundle Road, Weldon (2012)

Northumberland, The Old School Field, Haltwhistle (2011)

North Yorkshire, land at Conistone village, Grassington (2010)

Oxfordshire, Trap Grounds, Oxford (2005)

Oxfordshire, Warneford Meadow, Oxford (2010)

Redcar and Cleveland, Coatham Common (2010)

Shropshire, Church Bridge Field, Dorrington (2012)

Shropshire, land at Oswestry (2008)

Staffordshire, Newpool Meadows, Knypersley (2009)

Surrey, The Dell, Fetcham (2011)

Surrey, Windmill Drive, Leatherhead (2009)

Torbay, Wishing Fields, Brixham (2010)

Wakefield, The Old Colliery Site, Newmillerdam (2009)

West Sussex, Greensward, Goring (2009)

West Sussex, Ramsey Close, Horsham (2009)

Windsor and Maidenhead, The Kayles, Wraysbury (2011)

Worcestershire, Austin Rise, Lickey Hills (2011)

Notes for editors

1.         The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body.  It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them.

2.         Land can be registered as a town or village green if it has been used by local people for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ (ie informal recreation) for 20 years freely and openly.  Once registered the land is protected from development by nineteenth-century legislation.

CONTACT:          Kate Ashbrook          01491 573535 (work)

                                                        Kate Ashbrook

General Secretary

The Open Spaces Society

25a Bell Street

Henley-on-Thames RG9 2B



The Open Spaces Society is a registered charity (no 1144840) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 7846516).

Growth & Infrastructure Bill –

the threat to town and village greens

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