Although the popular image of a village green is of a grassed area in the centre of a village, it can in fact be any piece of land on which a significant number of inhabitants of any locality, or neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right on the land for a period of at least 20 years. These activities can include dog walking, blackberry picking or sledging but must be carried out without force, secrecy or permission of the landowner.
If a member of the public can provide evidence that a piece of land has become a village green by its use as detailed above, then under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 they can apply to have it recorded as such. Applicants would have to complete a copy of the standard application form which can be found on the defra website and provide evidence to support their claim that the land has become Town or Village Green. Whilst there is no application fee payable to the Authority, applicants should be aware that the process can be complex and is likely to require a very significant amount of their time over an extended period.
THE APPLICATION AND USER EVIDENCE FORMS MUST BE COMPLETED TO A HIGH LEVEL OF ACCURACY AND SHOULD AVOID VAGUE OR IMPRECISE STATEMENTS. It is important for everyone involved to understand that this is a legal process and if the landowner objects to registration then the Authority is likely to hold a non-statutory public inquiry and witnesses may be cross-examined on their evidence. Alternatively, if they are willing to do so, the landowner can voluntarily register land as a Town or Village Green.
By registering land as a Town or Village Green, the land is highly likely to be protected from development and the rights of local people to enjoy the land for recreation will be secured. This page provides only an outline of the issues surrounding Town and Village Greens and their registration; however, further information can be obtained by contacting the Authority’s Public Rights of Way Team on 01225 477532, by purchasing the Open Spaces Society's booklet or reading the defra website.