The law relating to greens is notoriously complex and there is concern that some registration applications have been used to hinder the legitimate development of schools, health centres and other much needed services, even on ‘brownfield’ land (that which has already been built upon).
This is partly because a ‘village green’ does not necessarily have to be a central grassy area as you might expect, but can be any piece of land that has been used by the town for twenty years without force, secrecy or permission. This has resulted in the successful registration of a bandstand and two lakes in recent years and the attempted registration of a beach, all, reputedly, to stop proposed development on that land.
As a consequence, Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has released, as of the 25th July, a public consultation to gauge opinion on the proposals to reform the relevant legislation in the Localism Bill.
According to Defra, there is evidence that a significant number of Village Green Status Applications are associated with development proposals. The application process itself does not halt development, but if the status of ‘Village Green’ is awarded then that green cannot be developed, irrespective of any planning permission or allocation in a local plan.
Furthermore, if a development is already completed on the site and the same site is subsequently registered as a green, those buildings must then be demolished. This can potentially cost developers hundreds of thousands of pounds, not to mention the cost of wasted time.
The consultation asks, therefore, whether the registration system can strike a better balance between protecting quality green spaces valued by local people and securing the new homes, jobs and essential infrastructure the country needs.
Applications are free to make but are often costly and time consuming for the local authority, the landowner and others. As a result, the consultation proposals also seek to improve the operation of the current registration system, reducing the burden on local authorities and landowners.
The Government expects that the reforms will reduce the workload of local authorities, helping them to deal more speedily with applications for sites which remain eligible. Changes to the existing registration system may also encourage landowners to provide new sites for access.
Long standing Village Green Legislation has been used to-date partly as a block for unwanted planning applications. Many, including the Government, will be hoping that this new consultation will help to put a stop to this and aid important developments in securing the sites they need.
To have your say in the Government consultation, click here