Town and Village Greens – Out of Time?

If a landowner prevents access to land which may be deemed a town or village green, an interested person or group have to make an application within 5 years of the date on which the use of the land was brought to an end (this is confirmed in the Commons Act).

However, what is not specified in the Act or the Commons Regulations is what happens when an application is lodged in time but is not in the right format? Can corrections made after the time limit has expired be applied retrospectively and the application stand? These are the issues that were considered in the recent case of Church Commissioner for England v Hampshire County Council 2013 and the judge decided that yes, corrections can apply retrospectively and the application made should stand.

In this case the interested party had until approximately 13 July 2008 to lodge an application and did so on 13 June 2008. However, it was not in the proper form. The defendant Council allowed time for the application to be put into the proper form which took the interested party until 20 July 2009, despite the time delay the judge ruled that this application should be allowed to stand and the corrections to it to have a retrospective effect.

A key consideration for the judge when allowing this was that a large number of applications for town or village greens are made by an interested person or group acting without legal assistance seeking a right that will be for the benefit of the local people and therefore should not be defeated by technicalities.
Therefore, if the time limit for an application is drawing near an interested person or group should not delay submitting an application for fear of making a mistake with the format or content and landowners should be wary of any applications made, even if it has been made close to the time limit and doesn’t appear to be in the right form or contain all the information required by the Act and Commons Regulations. In this scenario landowners should push the Council to provide only a short time for any additions or corrections to the application to be made.
For another article on this case please follow this link
http://www.landmarkchambers.co.uk/news_and_events/news/r_the_church_commissioners_for_england_v_hampshire_county_council_and_guthr

by Sarah Hodge, Solicitor