‘The Open Spaces Society has never been more needed in its 150-year history than today, as green spaces are increasingly threatened.’ So declared the society’s vice-president, open spaces expert Paul Clayden, at the society’s annual general meeting in London on Thursday. This year the society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, celebrates its 150th anniversary.
‘The society played a significant role in rescuing Welsh village greens from the damaging law which has prevented their registration in England. Whereas in England, the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 bans local people from applying to register a new green if the land is threatened with development, in Wales this is only the case where planning permission has been granted. The Welsh Government’s original plan was to copy England so this change, enshrined in the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, is a major achievement which will benefit local communities.
‘The society is also at the forefront of the campaign to encourage people in England to use neighbourhood planning to protect green spaces and to apply for the designation of land as Local Green Space or as an Asset of Community Value.
‘Local Green Space, which was introduced in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework in 2012, was offered as a sweetener for the destruction of the village green law. However, it is unclear how it operates and we are keen for local communities to test it.
‘Once land is listed as an Asset of Community Value it cannot be sold without the community having a chance to bid for it, and the listing may be a “material consideration” for planning purposes. Again, we should like to see this provision tested.
‘So there is much for our small society to do, against tremendous odds, but we remain as fighting fit as when we were founded 150 years ago.’