What Counts as a Village Green

Mark Cummings

If significant numbers of locals have (as a right) used the area for a period of 20 years for lawful sporting activities and pastimes, then section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 says anyone can apply to register land as a town or village green.

Landmark judgments in relation to use of publically held land in Timothy Jones v NHS Property Services Ltd, and R (Lancashire County Council) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs considered whether land held pursuant to a statutory provision is exempt from registration as a town or village green. 

It was held that the test to apply to determine whether or not statutory compatibility exists, was that there must be a specific statutory purpose attached to the land, that this purpose had intended to be conferred and that the statutory purpose would be incompatible with the use of the land as a town or village green.

There may be no conflict if the statutory functions can still be undertaken, even if it was with more difficulty.

It is very important to consider the question of village greens in dealing with matters relating to land used by the public.  If the use is ignored then there can be a long-term detrimental effect. 

If an owner objects to the public use of the land, this ought to be communicated to the public as soon as possible. A sign demonstrating that the land is private could be sufficient. On the other hand, if the current use is not objected to then the public should be advised that the current use is only tolerated in the short term and that the permission to use the land can be withdrawn at any time.

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