As mentioned in previous blogs, Town and Village Greens can create significant stumbling blocks to the redevelopment of land even where all relevant planning consents have been obtained.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in Taylor v Betterment Properties (which concerned a site extending to some 46 acres that had been used by members of the public for many years for recreation and dog walking) will offer comfort to landowners whose aspirations to develop their land stand to be thwarted by an application for registration under the Commons Act Legislation.
The former owner of the property had at different times erected signs warning trespassers to keep out. These signs were themselves frequently vandalised as were the fences and hedges of the property.
In spite of the apparently limited attempts to prevent the acquisition of rights, the passage of over ten years since the registration of the site as a Village Green and the fact that the current owner had actually bought the site subject when it had become a Village Green, the registration was overturned. The Court of Appeal concluded that sufficient steps had in fact been taken by the former owner of the property to make it clear to anyone using the land that they were not entitled to do so ‘as of right’.
Whilst the court emphasised that delay in bringing proceedings might lessen the chances of overturning the registration of a property as a Village Green that evidently wasn’t fatal in this instance. The case also emphasises the fact that comparatively limited steps (such as the erection of signs which are torn down) may be adequate to prevent rights of common being acquired. The registration of a site as common land isn’t necessarily the end of the matter from the Landowner’s perspective.
If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog or any other concerns relating to the registration of land as a Town or Village Green, please contact Mark Withers at firstname.lastname@example.org.