The Open Spaces Society, (1) the leading pressure-group for the protection of green spaces, is delighted to have helped stop the Planning (Wales) Act from making devastating changes to village-green law. (2)
The Planning (Wales) Act, which was finalised yesterday (19 May), was amended during its passage through the Welsh Assembly, thanks to the Open Spaces Society’s campaign. Assembly Members reversed several draconian measures which would have severely restricted the public’s opportunity to make applications for town and village greens and made countless green spaces vulnerable to development.
Local people can apply to register land which they have used for informal recreation for 20 years without interruption, challenge or permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development.(3)
When it was first introduced, the Planning (Wales) Bill copied England’s Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013. This made it much harder to register greens by outlawing applications for any land affected by development, and encouraged landowners to challenge recreational use of land after which local people had only one year in which to make an application.
The Open Spaces Society had meetings with the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant, and gave oral evidence to the all-party Environment and Sustainability Committee which advised the Welsh Government on the bill.
In January 2015 the committee recommended amendments to the bill to protect town and village greens, as proposed by the Open Spaces Society. These reduced the planning events (known as ‘trigger events’) which prevent people from being able to apply to register land(4) and gave people two years instead of one in which to apply to register land after use is challenged.
Says Nicola Hodgson, the society’s case officer: ‘We are delighted to have helped change this potentially damaging law so that people in Wales will still be able to apply to register their much-loved open spaces as village greens and protect them from development.
‘The Welsh are now better off than the English who have been restricted from registering land by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.
‘We were able to persuade the Welsh minister that there was no evidence to show that local people were abusing the greens process to stop development.
‘We congratulate the Welsh Assembly for upholding the rights of local people to enjoy their open spaces. We have published advice on how to apply to register land as a green in our book Getting Greens Registered.(5)
1 The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them, throughout England and Wales. www.oss.org.uk. This year the society celebrates its 150th anniversary #saveopenspaces150.
2 Land can be registered as a town or village green if it has been used by local people for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ (ie informal recreation) for 20 years freely and openly. The registration authority is the unitary council.
3 Greens are protected from encroachment and development by section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and section 29 of the Commons Act 1876. Once land is registered as a green, local people have the right to enjoy it for informal recreation.
4 The ‘trigger’ events, preventing people from applying to register land as a green, are planning permission which has been granted, a local development order or a development consent order (see part 8 of the Act).