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Even Publicly Owned Land Can Be Registered as a Town or Village Green

Registering open land as a town or village green is an effective means of protecting it from development – but what happens when the land concerned is owned by a public authority? The Court of Appeal considered that issue in an important test case.parkland 1

The case concerned fields, measuring 13 hectares in total, that adjoined a primary school. A woman’s application to register the fields as a village green under Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 was resisted by the council, which owned the land. Following a public inquiry, however, a government inspector found that registration of most of the land was justified on the basis that it had been used by local inhabitants, as of right, for lawful recreation and pastimes for at least 20 years.

The council’s judicial review challenge to that decision was subsequently rejected by a judge. In challenging that ruling, however, the council pointed out that it owned the fields for the purposes of public education and argued that registering them as a village green was fundamentally incompatible with its statutory duties as a local education authority.

In dismissing the appeal, however, the Court found that there was no inherent inconsistency between the council’s educational functions and the public’s continued recreational use of the fields. The council would still be able to perform its educational duties if the land remained undeveloped and open to the public. Even following registration, it would still be possible to make some limited educational use of the fields.

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