Richard Snape, a leading authority on conveyancing matters, provides some Easter food for thought….
Under S15 of the Commons Act 2015 any person may apply to a commons registration authority to register land as a town or village green where a significant number of inhabitants of a locality, or a neighbourhood within a locality, having indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for at least twenty years. If land has been so registered with town and village green (TVG) status it becomes a useful weapon in the arsenal of campaigners against development. It is a criminal offence to disturb or interfere with the use or enjoyment of a TVG although in a recent Supreme Court case, TW Logistics v Essex County Council  UKSC 4, has determined that TVG status does not necessarily prevent vehicular use of the land.
There are some popular misconceptions. For instance, TVGs are not unique to sleepy rural idylls: part of the South Bank subway in London is registered as TVG based on over twenty years of skateboarding.
Also, the types of lawful pastime are diverse. In the Supreme Court case of R (on the application of Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council  UKSC 11, a successful claim was based on dog walking, blackberry picking and non-linear walking. The latter being a pastime which may well be prevalent when the pubs reopen.
The case of R (on the application of Alloway and Pocock) v Oxfordshire County Council (2016) involved a 14-acre site named Humpty Hill near Faringdon in Oxfordshire which was earmarked for a development of 100 houses. The High Court accepted a registration based on walking, playing football, bird watching and generally hanging out, lounging about and chilling (presumably after a stiff non-linear walk). There were also less frequent activities such as blackberry picking, sledging (presumably not in the cricketing sense) and egg rolling (an Easter tradition). Presumably other Easter traditions such as egg hunting, egg and spoon racing, egg jarping (a game similar to conkers but with eggs) and numerous other events mainly pertaining to eggs, may give to rise to a TVG.
A word of warning to budding campaigners. Whether occasional egg rolling on its own will suffice is debatable. Throw in the ubiquitous dog walking and you may stop the destruction of our green and pleasant land or, dependent on your viewpoint, add to the shortage of housing.
Richard Snape April 2021
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