Preventing a claim for village green status

To prevent a claim for a village green a landowner could do several things, fence the land off so securely so that it is not used ‘as of right’, or if he doesn’t mind people using the land he can display notices so as to give permissive rights which can be withdrawn at any time, or restrict access and maybe charge people for using it, or deposit a Section 15A(1) notice. See below.

Displaying a notice saying "Private Property" does not prohibit use.

To ensure that any actions taken are within the law and cannot be pulled apart in court it is strongly recommended that the owner takes good legal advice.

Interrupting the 20 year period of ‘as of right’ access - Section 15A(1) Notice

In July 2011 the Government published a consultation on the registration of new town and village greens (“greens”) due to increasing concerns about the impact of such applications on the planning system.

It was announced in October 2012 that the law on the registration of new greens under the Commons Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”) would be amended in England only through the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 18 October 2012. On 25 April 2013 the Bill received Royal Assent and consequently became the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 (“the 2013 Act”)

Section 15 of the 2013 Act inserts sections 15A and 15B into the 2006 Act to introduce landowner statements which bring to an end any period of recreational use ‘as of right’ over land. Section 15 and the regulations which prescribe the rules for such applications, came into force on 1 October 2013.

This means that a landowner can submit a statement and a map that shows the land to which the statement applies, to bring to an end any period of recreational use ‘as of right’ over that land.

One of the four necessary criteria for registering new greens under section 15(1) of the 2006 Act is that the land has been used ‘as of right’, which means without permission, without force and without secrecy, for at least 20 years. The effect of a landowner depositing a statement is to interrupt any such period of use.

Therefore recreational users of land will be affected by the deposition of landowner statements because it will bring an end to any period during which they have used the land as of right.

However, Section 15A(2) of the 2006 Act provides that the deposit of a landowner statement does not prevent a new period of use commencing. Therefore if recreational use ‘as of right’ of the land were to continue then a new 20 year period could begin to accrue.

But, if a landowner statement is deposited within 20 years of the previous deposit, then it will again prevent any recreational users of the land reaching the 20 year use required by the greens registration criteria (i.e. because the clock is stopped once more before it reaches 20 years).

It is worth noting that land which has been subject to recreational use, as of right for 20 years or more, before a landowner statement is deposited, then the deposit of such a statement would trigger a one year period of grace allowed for village green applications which rely on the qualifying criteria provided by section 15(3) of the 2006 Act, i.e. where use of the land ‘as of right’ has ceased.

An Isle of Wight Council modified CA16 form for applications for deposit under Section 15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006 only (not to be used for applications for deposit under 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980, see the Rights of Way pages for this form) is available to download (PDF, 165KB, 7 pages).