The Open Spaces Society has made a last-minute call to communities to apply to register land as town or village greens.
The government’s Growth and Infrastructure Bill, currently in the House of Lords, emasculates the process.
Land can be registered as a town or village green if local people have used it for informal recreation, without being stopped or asking permission, for at least 20 years. Once registered, the land is protected from development.
The government falsely claims that greens registration is a barrier to development and wants to stop this. Clause 14 of the Growth Bill says that once land has been earmarked for development, even if that has been done in secret, it cannot be registered as a green.
Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘Although we are fighting these proposals, along with many other organisations and individuals, we must prepare for the worst. The Bill could become law within three months, and then it will be too late to save land we love.
‘Your new-year resolution must be to look around your patch and see if there is unprotected land which residents have used for 20 years for dog walking, bird watching or kicking a ball. Do not assume that because you’ve always used the land it is safe: a developer may well have his eye on it. You need to gather the evidence of use and apply to register it as a green now. Provided you get the application in to the local authority before the Bill becomes law the authority will process it. Once the Bill is law, no land which is threatened by development can be registered.
‘Of course you mustn’t do this purely to stop development,’ Kate continues. ‘That’s what government says is happening, but most applications are genuine. Reasonably people want to protect their local spaces when they are under threat and registering it as a green, provided they have evidence of use, is a good way of doing it.
‘There are many examples of genuine greens which might not have been registered had the Growth Bill been in force. We want to ensure that people can continue to protect their cherished spaces, and we hope the Lords will listen to us.’
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