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Local people kicked in the teeth over village greens

April 15, 2013






In a strike against localism, the government has at the last minute denied local people the two-month grace period for registering development land as a village green.(1)  Instead, the guillotine will drop the minute the Growth and Infrastructure Bill gains royal assent.


The Bill, which returns from the House of Lords to the Commons tomorrow (16 April) for MPs to debate the Lords’ amendments (ping-pong), will prevent local people from applying to register land as a green if it is earmarked for development.  The Bill allowed a two-month grace period after royal assent.  At the last minute, in the House of Lords, the government amended the Bill so that there is no grace period and the ban on greens applications takes effect as soon as the Bill is passed.


Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society(2): ‘It is unfair, mean and contrary to the Big Society to introduce such significant changes at this late stage, and too late for a proper debate in the House of Commons.  Communities have assumed that they have two months after royal assent in which to submit their applications to register land as greens.  Now they have no time at all.


‘There has been no consultation or discussion about this early commencement of the greens measures.  The government has ignored its national stakeholder group which exists to advise it on greens.’


In a further late amendment, the government has ruled that local people will have only one year in which to apply for green status after their use is challenged, instead of two years.  This is separate from cases of challenge by planning and development which, already under this Bill, instantly prevent registration as a green.


Says Kate: ‘This amendment, which affects the existing law of greens, shows how worthless was the statement made by Baroness Hanham, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, on 30 January 2013:


The new legislation will not affect existing registered greens, which will continue to enjoy the same strong protection as they currently have.  Nor is it our intention that the changes will affect applications to register land as a town or village green where there is no proposed development on the land in question.


‘Of course the amendment does just that, it puts local people at a huge disadvantage.  It is complicated and time-consuming to submit an application and a year may well not be long enough.


‘Registration of locally-enjoyed land as a green is at the heart of localism,’ Kate continued.  ‘The government is wrecking the ancient laws for registering land as a green, and putting nothing in their place.  The proposed Local Green Space designation in the National Planning Policy Framework is vague, untested and no substitute.


‘We have urged MPs to oppose these two amendments and object to their last-minute introduction,’ Kate concludes.


Notes for editors


1.         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.


2.         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.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Kathryn Marsh permalink
    April 16, 2013 6:05 pm

    Looking at the country I grew up in from a distance it is heart breaking to see the freedoms my parents fought for being surrendered by the present generation

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