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Town and Village Greens

Town and Village Greens developed under customary law as areas of land where local people indulged in lawful sports and pastimes. These might include organised or ad-hoc games, picnics, fetes and similar activities.

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 changes the legal definition of a town or village green and sets out the qualifying circumstances in which land may be newly registered.  Essentially anyone can apply to have land registered as a green if it has been used by local people for recreation ‘as of right’ (i.e. without permission, force or secrecy) for at least 20 years.  Section 15 makes the following changes to the existing law relating to the registration of new greens:

  • it provides a period of grace after use of land by local people ‘as of right’ has been ended by the landowner, when an application to register it as a green can still be made (under the old legislation, an application had to be made immediately after use ‘as of right’ had been ended);
  • it ensures that, where a landowner grants permission for use of his land when there has already been 20 years’ use ‘as of right’, the use continues to be regarded ‘as of right’ (so there is no time limit for an application for registration, unless the landowner takes other steps to challenge use);
  • any period of statutory closure (e.g. during a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak) is to be disregarded when deciding whether there has been 20 years’ use ‘as of right’; and
  • it allows a landowner voluntarily to register his land as a green.

The new measures have been introduced in the Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) (Interim Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2007 and will come into force on 6 April 2007. A new more modern application form and comprehensive guidance notes to help applicants and registration authorities complete the process  are also available. See links below:

From time to time, we write to registration authorities about their role in registering new town or village greens:

Communications are also sent to commons registration officers about their registration functions generally.

Registration of new greens: survey

Defra undertook a survey of all commons registration authorities in England in October 2007 to gauge the level of registration activity.  The survey sought information about the number and outcome of applications to register new town or village greens since 6 April 2007 under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006, and historic information about the number and outcome of applications under section 13 of the Commons Registration Act 1965 since 2003.  The survey also asked for information about the cost of public inquiries to determine disputed applications, and for comments on the registration system under the 2006 Act.

Approximately two-fifths of authorities responded, and the results are considered to be reasonably representative of all authorities in England.  The survey results have therefore been used to estimate activity data for England as a whole.

For further information, please see:

Town and Village Green Research Project - 2006

Defra has published the final report of the research project it commissioned last year on town and village greens. The work, carried out by ADAS UK Ltd, aimed to improve the practical evidence base on greens. [More information]

Database of registered town or village greens

A database of registered town or village greens in England is available, and dates from around 1993.  It is not kept up-to-date with subsequent new registrations of greens, or amendments to existing registrations, because Defra does not receive details of amendments to the registers.  The database (864 KB) is available in pdf and excel format (4 MB - large file sized).

Adverse possession on town or village greens

Defra has published a guidance note on the extent to which adverse possession can be claimed over land registered as common land or town or village green, and the consequences of a successful claim.

Page last modified: 14 December 2007
Page published: 5 February 2003

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs