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Town and Village Greens

Image showing Wood Green, New ForestTown 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. Please see our factsheet (PDF 39KB) on the registration of new town or village greens

Section 15 came into force throughout England on 6 April 2007 and 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: please also see our guidance note on the voluntary dedication of land.

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 a sample of successful and unsuccessful greens applications. The project examined the land type and use of each of the sample sites as well as whether those sites were earmarked for development and, where applicable, the reasons for the failure of the applications.

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 use the guidance nor the form below for applications in the pilot implementation areas.

Regulations and forms

Registration of new greens: 2009 survey

In late 2009 Defra undertook a repeat survey of commons registration authorities in England to establish the level of activity. Just under half (43%) of authorities responded. 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.

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.

Database of registered town or village greens

A database of registered town or village greens in England is available.  The data was gathered by the University of Aberystwyth in connection with (but not as part of) the biological survey of common land, and dates from the late 1980s. 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. 

Please note that the greens listed in the database are located by a single grid reference, and that owing to limitations in the scale of mapping at which the data were collected, the grid reference may be located a short distance from the green itself.  The location is therefore very approximate.

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.

Management and protection of registered town and village greens

Defra has published a guidance note (PDF 117KB) which answers some of the questions which we most frequently get asked in relation to the management and protection of town and village greens.

Page last modified: 14 October 2010
Page published: 23 October 2008