A combine harvests a cereal crop

Town or Village Greens: New protection for landowners

New regulations have just been published which will give landowners increased protection against unwelcome applications to register their land as a town or village green (“TVG”).

The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 set up a new procedure, but we have been waiting for a start date. These latest regulations provide for the new system to begin on 1 October 2013.

The TVG registration system

To register land successfully as a TVG, members of the public living in the locality have to show that they have used the land “as of right” (i.e. without permission, stealth or force) for sports and pastimes for a continuous period of 20 years. The pastimes can include activities such as dog walking, blackberry picking, kite flying etc.

Once registered as a TVG, the land remains the property of the owner, but can no longer be built on, driven over, or used for any purpose which is inconsistent with its TVG status. This could cause considerable practical difficulties for the landowner, whether or not development of the land is planned.

The changes

Under the new procedure a landowner can serve a statement on the Registration Authority (usually the County Council), which stops the 20 year clock running on any recreational use of his land. In cases where the use has been for less than 20 years, this should then protect the landowner against any TVG application. The notice will not, however, stop a new period of 20 years from starting to run, so the notices have to be updated during each 20 year period.

If the people from the locality can already demonstrate at least 20 years use of the land at the time the notice is served, the potential applicants will have a period of one year from that service, during which to submit an application. In this way the new system will flush out dormant applications, which could otherwise have hung over the landowner for years.

The statement has to be in the form set out in the new regulations and must be signed by all of the landowners. It has to be served on the appropriate authority.

Combined application with public rights of way

Landowners can currently take steps to help prevent the dedication of new public rights of way over their land by submitting an application to the County Council under s.31(6) of the Highways Act. As from 1 October 2013 a combined application can be submitted dealing with both public rights of way and TVGs.

Action

All landowners should now review their land holdings. Where there is any possibility that members of the public have been or could possibly have been using the land for recreational purposes, they should consider serving the appropriate statement after 1 October, whether or not development of the land is anticipated.

For more information please contact Caroline Waller