Town and Village Greens (“TVG“) have long been a thorn in the side of developers, and in recent years have increasingly been used by locals to thwart development. However, the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 made a number of changes to the TVG regime, seeking to redress this balance. Many, though, would say that the shift has gone too far.
Registration of land as a TVG is a serious concern for a landowner as it effectively sterilises that land, preventing all future development. To be successful an applicant must show that the land has been used for lawful sports and pastimes, as of right, for at least 20 years. Even where an application for registration fails it can cause serious problems by stalling development and exposing the landowner to significant costs.
The 2013 Act made some crucial changes to the TVG regime, including:
- a right to make a “Landowner Statement”;
- the reduction of the period during which a TVG application can be made; and
- suspension of the right to apply for registration of a TVG in certain circumstances.
Landowners can now bring all potentially qualifying use of the land as a TVG to an end by lodging a formal statement with the local authority. This statement does not prevent registration of the land as a TVG, but hypothetically erects a giant, impenetrable fence around the whole site, ending all qualifying use. This statement will be of particular use where a landowner cannot in practice hoard off its site completely. It will also be useful when selling land as the statement could be provided to purchasers as evidence that any TVG rights will have ceased on the date of the statement.
Reduction in application period
Previously applicants had two years from the date use as a TVG ceased in which to submit an application for registration of the land as a TVG. This meant that landowners could prevent all public access, but still be at risk of a TVG application for a further two years. This period has now been reduced to one year, giving landowners a little more comfort.
Suspension of Right to Register
Finally, the Act has introduced the new concept of periods during which an application to register land as a TVG cannot be made, even if qualifying TVG use is continuing. If a specified “trigger event” occurs, no application can be made until the corresponding “termination event” also occurs. These trigger events are broad ranging and include advertising a planning application and the publication of a draft development plan identifying the land for development. It is hoped that this will prevent local residents using the regime to thwart otherwise acceptable development. There is a risk, though, that these measures will mean land which should be protected as a TVG is developed.
Following these changes, although registration of land as a TVG is still a risk, a landowner now has tools with which to manage, or even avoid, this risk.