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Councils urged to help rescue green spaces

March 1, 2014



 Embargo: Not for release before Saturday 1 March 2014                                                      


The Open Spaces Society,(1) the leading pressure-group for the protection of green spaces, will today (Saturday) urge local council clerks to be active in rescuing green spaces in their communities.

 The society’s case officer, Nicola Hodgson, will address the Society of Local Council Clerks’ national conference for practitioners near Derby today.  She will speak on the threats to town and village greens,(2)common land(3) and open spaces, and what local councils can do to protect them.

 Nicola presented a four-point plan for local council clerks.

 She said: ‘Local councils are uniquely placed to protect open spaces for public enjoyment.  Open spaces are under threat of development and the government has relaxed the laws intended to protect them.  Here are some things that council clerks can do.

 1       Register land which belongs to the council as a town or village green; they can do this voluntarily and then the land is protected from development.

 2       Help local people to identify and register land as a town or village green based on 20 years’ use for informal recreation.  It is vital to do this before the land is threatened with development, or the landowner has challenged people’s use of the land.

 3       Organise surveys of the local commons, or annual beating the bounds events, and check whether there are any unlawful encroachments; if there are, follow them up with the county or unitary council, or consider taking legal action.

 4       If there is a neighbourhood plan in prospect, ensure that local people identify land they wish to protect as Local Green Space so that it can be designated and secured.(4)

 ‘The Open Spaces Society provides advice and guidance and will be pleased to help local councils to protect their open spaces for the benefit of the community.’


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, without force or secrecy (‘as of right’).  A landowner can register land voluntarily without needing to produce evidence of use.  Once registered, the land is protected from development by nineteenth-century legislation.

 3.         Common land exists throughout England and Wales.  It is land subject to rights of common, to graze animals or collect wood for instance, or waste land of the manor not subject to rights.  There is a public right to walk on all commons, and a right to ride on some.

                        Works on common land, such as fencing, require the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in addition to any planning consent.  If such works do not have consent they may be unlawful and a local council is empowered to take enforcement action.

 4.         Local Green Space was introduced in the National Planning Policy Framework in March 2012 and is land which is identified through the neighbourhood or local planning process and is then protected from development.  There is little information or guidance on how it can be achieved.




Kate Ashbrook

General Secretary

The Open Spaces Society

25a Bell Street

Henley-on-Thames RG9 2BA



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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