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Could your land be a town or village green, asks Robert Twigg, of solicitors Everett, Tomlin, Lloyd and Pratt?

wantspacegotspace.co.uk - Could your land be a town or village green, asks Robert Twigg, of solicitors Everett, Tomlin, Lloyd and Pratt?Think of a village green and you may picture a piece of land in the middle of a village where children play and families picnic and perhaps where the village fête is held every year.
But the Commons Act 2006 defines town and village greens much more widely, so that they can include private land which many people would not usually regard as a town or village green. This can lead to landowners being prevented from developing their land and effectively being deprived of its use.

Under the Act land can be registered as a town or village green if it can be proved that it has been used by people, as of right, for lawful sports and pastimes for at least 20 years. Use as of right means use without force, secrecy or the permission of the landowner. Lawful sports and pastimes include dog walking, playing children’s games, kite flying, blackberry picking and tobogganing.
Most landowners would consider people carrying out such activities on their land as trespassers, but this is a ruse

which is being used increasingly by objectors to try and prevent the development of land.

The effect of registration of land as a town or village green is that it would be a criminal offence to erect buildings on that land. It would also be a criminal offence to enclose that land by erecting or possibly even repairing fences on or around it, making the grazing of stock and the carrying out of other farming activities impossible.

Land on the edge of a town or village is particularly vulnerable to registration as a town or village green. Owners of such land who wish to avoid an application for registration should make it clear that any trespassers using their land are not doing so as of right. This can be done by for example making sure the land is well fenced, erecting prominent
“Private Property – Keep Out” type signs or signs granting permission to use the land until further notice, challenging anyone found trespassing and keeping a record of what has been done to deter or expel trespassers and when.

A landowner faced with an application for registration will need to prove in a public enquiry that any alleged use of the land for lawful sports or pastimes was not as of right by showing that steps such as the above were taken. Helpful proof of this can sometimes come from unexpected sources. One hapless witness at a public enquiry had made a statement confirming that he was not aware of anyone ever trying to stop people from using the land.

However, he had forgotten that some years earlier he had written to the local paper condemning the landowner for spreading manure on the land in order to prevent tobogganing – forgotten that is until confronted with a copy of the press cutting.  

Posted by The Editor (wantspacegotspace) on 30th October 2012

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