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Village green preservation: a change in the law

Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:14

The village green at Stanford in the Vale The village green at Stanford in the Vale Photo: © Wikipedia

A Village Green or Town Green is, to most of us, a green, open or undeveloped space within a settlement.

The Commons Act states that to get an area of land declared a village or town green (TVG) it must have been used by local people without permission or hindrance from the landowner, and without force for at least twenty years. It’s not always that simple. And it could be made even more difficult as the Government is about to change the legislation.

New plans in the Government’s Growth and Infrastructure Bill will make it easier for development to take place on community spaces. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says: “Town and village greens are cherished community spaces, and it’s absolutely right they continue to have the strongest protection. Yet the system can be abused to stop developments like affordable housing from being built. We’re stamping down on the abuse of this law that can effectively shut local communities out of deciding what development is right for them. This Government has a vital mission to support growth and spread aspiration, and these new plans will help that to happen.”

There are already well over 4,000 existing TVGs and they will retain full protection. The new plans will prevent TVG applications when an application for planning permission has been made or granted, and when land has been allocated for development by the local authority. TVGs can continue to be registered where no development is either proposed or the subject of community consultation.

The Government says that longer term financial benefits will arise from increased certainty around how local land will be used, social improvements and economic growth from jobs and development. But we say this is a sledgehammer to crack a very small nut.

Tens of thousands of planning applications for housing development are granted each year, but in 2009 there were only 185 TVG applications. There may be legitimate concerns about a small number of these applications, but it is worrying that the Government chooses to portray town and village greens as a barrier to growth, rather than spaces that are deeply valued by communities.

We fear that these plans will lead to an inequality of arms between local communities and housebuilders who are ‘banking’ more and more land and want to steamroller councils into developing land that should be protected.

People need to act now to save their village green or town greens and should register any sites that they may wish to protect immediately.

Definition of village and town greens on Wikipedia.

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