Day to Day Conveyancing: What Colour Is a Village Green?

Paul Hajek | 11 Dec 2013

what colour is a village greenWhat colour is a village green has a bit of clue in the title. No prizes there, I’m afraid.

Popular opinion believes lawyers rarely give a straight answer to a question, so far be it from me to disappoint you.

Ask me again: What colour is a village green? Now that depends on whether the village green in question is a beach.

The Commons Act 2006
You may have not come across the Commons Act 2006. Who could blame you?
There are around 550,000 hectares of registered common land in England and Wales – 4% of the total land area in England and Wales. 
The Act aimed to protect common land, in a sustainable manner delivering benefits for farming, public access and biodiversity:
Another objective of the Act was to provide better protection for common land and greens – this includes reinforcing existing protections against abuse, encroachment and unauthorised development 
The Act provides a mechanism for registering town or village greens.
Life’s a Beach
The Court of Appeal had to decide whether West Beach in Newhaven East Sussex could be registered as a town or village green under the 2006 Commons Act.
In 2006, the owner of West Beach, Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd, fenced off public access to the beach. The owners also claimed that the sea wall was in such a bad state of repair which would make public access to the beach dangerous.
Evidence had been produced that West Beach had been used by local inhabitants as of right for lawful sports and pastimes for at least the twenty years expiring in April 2006. 
The Council was minded to grant town or village green status but the registration was delayed pending the appeal by the owners of the beach.
1965 Commons Registration Act.
The Commons Registration Act 1965 originally permitted the registration of town or village greens.
  1. A “town or village green” was land which has been allotted by or under any Act for the exercise or recreation of the inhabitants of any locality or 
  2. on which the inhabitants of any locality have a customary right to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes or
  3. on which the inhabitants of any locality have indulged in such sports and pastimes as of right for not less than twenty years.”
This could also mean that land could include land covered with water 
Platonic Ideal of a Village Green
Lord Justice Lewison stated in this case that It is perfectly true that the way that the town and village green legislation has been interpreted has allowed the registration of parcels of land that are far removed from the Platonic ideal of a village green.
The Court of Appeal rejected the owner’s argument and even though “no blade of grass” in sight cleared the path (literally?) for the beach to be registered as a town or village green.
What Could This Mean For You?
The subtext to the case was the locals’ fear of development around the beach. 
Registration of land as a town or village green effectively curtails future development.
I doubt whether this will be the last we hear of challenges to development on “town or village greens”
If you are worried about developers seeking to deny your usage of open spaces which you have enjoyed with over many years contact your Solicitors they may be able to help you.
And in answer to the original question what colour is a village green add sandy or beige to your colour spectrum.
Full account of Court of Appeal Ruling here 
P.S It is understood that the Port has made an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. So it may not yet be over.

Paul Hajek

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