Article | Designation of Town or Village Greens

Michael Higgin comments on the case of Cooper Estates Strategic Land v Wiltshire Council. Landowners and developers will be pleased by the outcome, which puts sensible limits on the ability to designate land as a Town or Village Green.

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Michael Higgin

Michael Higgin

Michael Higgin’s old college friend Gregory Jones QC recently acted for Cooper Estates Strategic Land in defeating the potential registration of land as a town/village green. The land in question had been identified for “potential development” by policies in the Wiltshire Council Core Strategy document. The Court held that that was a “trigger event” which prevented the registration of a town and village green.

The land (at Royal Wootton Bassett) is understood to have apparently been used for amenity space to serve an area of housing, until it was fenced in 2006 and the gate to which was locked in 2015. Before 2006, the land had been mown and cared for by the local authority, who had mistakenly thought that they owned it, until the actual owner fenced and gated the land. Access was still enjoyed by members of the public, but it was not secured until three years ago.

Once a “trigger event” has occurred for the purposes of s.15C of the 2006 Commons Act no application can be received for registration of a town/village green. Wiltshire Council had thought that no trigger event had occurred, because the land had not been specifically identified for “potential development”, despite the existence of a strategic policy for the area. However, the Court disagreed with that assessment. Identification of land for “potential” development had a wide interpretation of that word and did not require such development to be “likely” to occur. Landowners who have promoted their land for development, and any developers that they are co-operating with, will be pleased to see that they are now less likely to be frustrated by a TVG application, once a valid and effective planning strategy document has identified their land for future development.