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Updated 3 May 2013

Added link to the Interim Guidance to Commons Registration Authorities on Section 15C of the Commons Act 2006
3 May 2013 12:15
First published.
9 April 2013 12:09

Overview

The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 25 April, has made a number of significant changes to the law on registering new town and village greens under the Commons Act 2006. Section 16 of the 2013 Act inserted new Section 15C and Schedule 1A into the 2006 Act. These provisions took effect on 25 April 2013 and exclude the right to apply for the registration of land in England as a town or village green where a trigger event has occurred in relation to the land. The right to apply for registration of the land as a green remains excluded unless and until a terminating event occurs in relation to the land. Trigger and terminating events are set out in Schedule 1A to the 2006 Act and broadly relate to whether land is identified for potential development in the planning system.

The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 makes other changes to the law on town and village greens in the Commons Act 2006, which will come into force later this year: The period of grace, where recreational use of the land as of right has ceased before an application was made, will be reduced to one year. New sections 15A and 15B introduce ‘landowner statements’ and the registers in which they will be recorded. Landowner statements bring an end to use as of right.

Applying to register land as a town or village green

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. Most greens were registered in the late 1960s under the Commons Registration Act 1965. Provided the right to apply has not been excluded (see overview above), anyone can apply under section 15(1) of the Commons Act 2006 to register land as a green if it has been used by local people for lawful sports and pastimes ‘as of right’ (ie without permission, force or secrecy) for at least 20 years.

Please see below for guidance on applications - but note that different rules apply in following pioneer areas:

  • Devon (but not including unitary authorities)
  • Kent (but not including unitary authorities)
  • Cornwall
  • Hertfordshire
  • Herefordshire
  • Lancashire (but not Blackpool), and
  • Blackburn with Darwen

If your application relates to land in one of these areas, you should go to the guidance in the Pilot implementation areas section.

There is an alternative means of protecting land through the planning system. The new Local Green Space designation empowers local communities to protect green spaces of local importance without the need to meet strict statutory criteria. Sites may be designated for a variety of reasons, including their setting, nature conservation benefits, or their quietness. Local communities will be able to identify green spaces through their local and neighbourhood plans, which will then receive protection equivalent to Green Belt, ruling out new development other than in very special circumstances. Consideration within the local planning process will ensure that the new designation will complement and not undermine investment in homes, jobs and other essential services.

Pilot implementation areas

In relation to the pilot implementation areas for Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 [Devon, Kent (but not including unitary authorities in these first two counties), Cornwall, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire, Lancashire (but not Blackpool), and Blackburn with Darwen], the procedures, forms and guidance for applications under section 15 have been revised, and are now contained in the Guidance to Applicants in the pilot implementation areas - you should not any other guidance or forms for applications in the pilot implementation areas.

Management and protection of registered town and village greens

Defra has published a Guidance note [PDF, 117KB, 10 pages]  (PDF 120 KB) which answers some of the questions which we most frequently get asked in relation to the management and protection of town and village greens.

Study of town and village greens registration system

In March 2009 Defra commissioned the Countryside and Community Research Institute to undertake a research study to examine the land type and use of a sample of sites claimed in recent applications to register new greens, as well as whether those sites were earmarked for development and, where applicable, the reasons for the failure of the applications.

Registration of new greens: 2011 survey

In late 2011 Defra undertook a repeat Survey [PDF, 29.8KB, 2 pages]  (PDF 50 KB) of commons registration authorities in England to establish the level of activity relating to new greens applications. Responses were received from 23% of authorities. The data is considered to be reasonably representative of all authorities in England and the results have been scaled-up to estimate the activity throughout England.

Town and village green research project - 2006

A research project on town and village greens [PDF, 2.47MB, 137 pages]  (PDF 2.5 MB), carried out by ADAS UK Ltd, which sought to improve the practical evidence base on greens.

Database of registered town or village greens

A Database of registered town or village greens in England [PDF, 686KB, 24 pages] (PDF 690 KB) is available. The data were gathered by the University of Aberystwyth in connection with (but not as part of) the biological survey of common land. Note the data were gathered in the late 1980s, and are not updated.

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. The guidance note should be read with guidance published by HM Land Registry on registering title to land through adverse possession.