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Village Greens

October 1, 2013






 The Open Spaces Society(1) responds robustly to Defra’s press release today (1 October), New measures to increase rural home-building.  This is about the new regulations which have been introduced today to restrict applications to register land as a town or village green.(2)

 Defra claims that the new measures will stop the village-green system from being abused and that ‘loopholes in the system have increasingly been abused by people looking to stop local development’.

 The Open Spaces Society’s general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, counters: ‘Defra has little evidence that the system is being “increasingly abused”.  The number of greens applications made in relation to planning applications is minuscule.  In fact the number of greens applications has dropped between 2008 and 2011.’

 Defra claims that ‘legitimate applications will remain well-protected’.

 ‘Not so’, says Kate.  ‘The Growth and Infrastructure Act outlaws an application for a green on any land earmarked for development, so even if people have enjoyed 20 years of informal recreation there—which means the application is legitimate—they cannot apply to register the green.’

 The rural affairs minister, Richard Beynon, claims that ‘towns across the country have been held back from getting the developments they want through misuse of the village green system’.

 The Open Spaces Society says: ‘This is a sweeping statement with little evidence.  What Defra fails to acknowledge is that when local people have used land for a long time for informal recreation, they grow to love it, and they assume it will always be there.  When it is threatened, of course they want to protect their rights to enjoy it—and greens registration is the means to record their rights.  Communities may want some developments but they also want their village greens which they have enjoyed for decades.’

 The new regulations which take effect today in England mean that local people must submit their application within one year of their use being challenged, instead of two years as previously.  Furthermore, landowners can deposit a statement with their registration authority (county or unitary council) to bring an end to any period of recreational use of land and this will be recorded in a register.(3)

 Says Kate: ‘We are deeply worried that local people may not be aware of the landowner statements and that the clock is ticking.  While the notice must be posted on the land for six weeks, there is no requirement to replace any which are removed.  One year is a short time in which to gather evidence and submit an application.  So communities must be super-vigilant and act fast to gather evidence of use once they have been challenged.

 ‘It’s vital that communities identify now any land which might be eligible as a town and village green and to apply to register it.  Our book, Getting Greens Registered, tells them how to do this.’


 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.  The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 prevented, from April 2013, applications in England for any land which is threatened with development.  The new regulations, which take effect on 1 October 2013, require that once use of land has been challenged, an application for a green must be submitted within one year, and landowners can deposit statements preventing use by local people from developing into registrable rights.

 3          The procedure for depositing statements and declarations for both greens and highways is prescribed by the Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) and Dedicated Highways (Landowner Statements and Declarations) (England) Regulations 2013: The Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) and Dedicated Highways (Landowner Statements and Declarations) (England) Regulations 2013



CONTACT:       Kate Ashbrook

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).

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