Principles applicable to delayed correction of Town and Village Green Register

Whether the Court should exercise its discretion to order the correction of the Register of Town and Village Greens after a long period has elapsed will usually boil down to issues of detriment or prejudice. There are at least four relevant kinds:

1. Prejudice to the local residents: That element of prejudice may not be very weighty given that its a right which they should never have had. but they may be detrimentally affected by the loss of practices developed over the years;

2. Prejudice to others: They may have made decisions only on the basis that the land was a registered town or village green. It may have led them to buy (or decide against selling) houses;

3. Prejudice to public authorities and the public: The registration may have led the authorities to make decisions e.g the local planning authority may have granted residential planning permission on the basis the green could not be developed. Those interests might equally be prejudiced by the erroneous registration preventing the land being deployed for much needed local housing;

4. The fair hearing of the case being prejudiced: The longer since the original registration, the harder it would be to fairly try the issues relating to that registration, especially as to the length and nature of the use to which the land was put in the, then preceding, period of 20 years and as to whether such use had been opposed, or exercised as if it was an entitlement.

Those principles were enunciated and applied in the recent combined Supreme Court cases of Adamson and others v Paddico (267) Limited and Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis) v Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Limited [2014]

In 1996 the Clayton Fields Action Group successfully applied to register land as a village green. The landowners subsequently sold the land to Paddico in 2005. Five years later the company applied for rectification of the register as it had not been used by inhabitants from a single locality.

The second appeal related to the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis’ registering 46 acres of open land in Weymouth as a village green in 2001. Betterment bought the land in 2005 and then sought to rectify the register.

Speaking for the court Lady Hale said speculations or assumptions were not enough there must be “some solid material” from which prejudice could be inferred.

Applying these principles, the Court said there was no evidence of prejudice and no material from which it could infer the likelihood of prejudice in relation to the Betterment application so rectification of the register had been correctly awarded.

Though the lapse of time in the Paddico case was much longer than in the Betterment case, “there was no evidence at all of any specific prejudice to the local inhabitants, other than the loss of the right to use the land for recreation” and again the register should be rectified.

This blog is posted as a matter of general interest. It does not remove the need for proper legal advice in individual cases.