Making a village green application

The popular view of a typical green is a small area of open land in the middle of a village where the children run around and where the village cricket team holds its matches. However, village greens do not need to be traditional picturesque areas. A town or village green depends on the rights exercisable over the land rather than its location. Thus, any land used by people from the locality for informal recreation can become a town or village green.

However, there is recent legislation that makes certain lands unregisterable, see the next Tab ‘Exclusions to the right to apply’ for more details.

Evidence required for registration

The burden of proof lies with the person seeking the registration, the applicant has to properly prove that the land satisfies all four parts of the criterion for registration as a village green namely that the land has been used by:

  • a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality or neighbourhood;
  • for lawful sports and pastimes;
  • as of right;
  • for not less than twenty years.

If any one part cannot be satisfied then the application will fail.

Local inhabitants

The meaning of the words “local inhabitants” is not defined in the 1965 Act or the 1969 Regulations. The applicant is required to show the recreational use of the land is predominantly, but not exclusively, by people who live in that locality. However, although use by persons other than local inhabitants will not prevent the recognition of a right for local inhabitants, a right cannot be claimed for the public at large for the purposes of a village green.

Lawful sports and pastimes

The types of activity that would constitute “lawful sports and pastimes” include formal sports and organised events such as football, cricket, fetes and bonfires. In addition, informal modern activities such as walking the dog, strolling, birdwatching, kite flying or just sitting and idling have now been accepted as being as relevant as the more traditional ones. However, it must be an activity that could properly be called a sport or pastime (i.e. walking along a path to get from A to B would not in itself amount to a sport or pastime). The applicant will need to provide evidence of an established pattern of recreational use and the use should not be trivial or sporadic.

As of right

For use to be as of right the applicant must show that the recreational use of the land by local people has been without force, without secrecy, and without permission.

  • Without force: there must be unrestricted access for the entire twenty year period. If access is obtained by climbing over or breaking down fences and tolerated only in so far as the landowner could not prevent such access then the use is not as of right.
  • Without secrecy: the use must not be exercised in secret but carried out openly. If the use takes place only at night under cover of darkness then the use is not as of right.
  • Without permission: The use must be without the permission of the owner. If the owner merely does nothing to prevent the use of the land for recreational activities, even if he knows about the activities, his toleration would not be sufficient to imply he had given permission for such use.

Not less than twenty years

The use for lawful sports and pastimes must have occurred for at least twenty years. Any evidence that the use has been interrupted, or the land has not been available for such use during the required twenty year period will destroy the claim.

Although a letter from the land users is acceptable, it would be more helpful to the council if you used the evidence questionnaire as these ask for information pertinent to the evidence needed.

It is strongly recommended that you use the services of a good solicitor to ensure your application is correct, and you must make a statutory declaration, confirming the truth of the evidence given in your application, before a justice of the peace, practising solicitor, commissioner for oaths or notary public.

Registering your own land as a village green

The legislation allows for a landowner to submit their own application for their own land. They would have to prove they own the land but they do not have to prove the 4 criteria regarding access, local use, 20 year use or lawful pastimes. If there is no counter claim to the land ownership then this should be a straightforward process. But you do have to first obtain the consent of any lease or charge holder of the land, such as a tenant, or a mortgagee. You must provide evidence that any ‘relevant leaseholder’, and the proprietor of any ‘relevant charge’ over the land, consent to the application.

Download the Rural village green voluntary guidance notes (PDF, 76KB, 10 pages).