Stripping land of village green status

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Summary: You should read this if you are a landowner (or developer) of land registered as a village green for several years. You may still be able to strip it of that status, if there are grounds to challenge that registration.

You should read this if you are a landowner (or developer) of land registered as a village green for several years. You may still be able to strip it of that status, if there are grounds to challenge that registration.

In two cases land had been registered as a village green for years. The landowners did initially seek to challenge those registrations. They didn’t go on with their claims following legal advice.

In both cases the land was sold some years later. The new owners challenged the registration of the land as a village green.

See the timelines of the two cases for more detail.

If land was wrongly registered as a village green in the first place, did the extensive delay in pursuing a claim for rectification of that registration mean it was no longer just for such an order to be made?

Factors to consider

There is a balance to be struck between public and private rights in this situation. This was acknowledged by the (Supreme) Court. Factors it considered needed to be satisfied by an applicant for de-registration in this situation were:

  1. knowledge of the village green registration (usually obvious on an inspection, and in pre-contract enquiries and searches, so an easy test to satisfy); and either
  2. acquiescence by the landowner. Putting up signs etc when the land was already registered as a village green is not acquiescence. Acquiescence may be inferred, potentially, if the landowner does not make the de-registration application (so a point for developers to consider, in negotiations); or
  3. prejudice. This is the most important factor. It needs to be considered from several angles, namely prejudice:

    • to locals;
    • to others buying land in the vicinity;
    • to public authorities (their planning decisions may be affected by the fact the land is not available for development);
    • because of the difficulty ensuring a fair hearing so long after the event.

The decision

Both owners were successful in stripping the land of its village green status:

  • In the first case, even though a couple had acquired property neighbouring the green, and were aware that it was a green (so within the second bullet point above), that was not sufficient prejudice.
  • In the second case, the land had planning permission for residential development when registered as a village green and had been designated previously by the local authority for housing. This outweighed the loss of land to locals for recreational use (the first bullet point above).

So you shouldn’t assume that an older village green registration cannot be reversed if wrongly made, even where that is not done quickly, where the circumstances justify. Case: Adamson and others v Paddico (267) Limited, Mrs Gill Taylor (on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis) v Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Limited [2014] UKSC 7

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