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18th February 2021

A Town or Village Green does not have to be Green

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The Supreme Court has held that a working quayside has been properly registered as a town or village green despite the port quayside comprising a concrete area of 200 square metres across which port vehicles are driven and commercial activity is conducted. (It is not a grassy green area on which cricket is played).

Accordingly, the public have acquired rights to use the area for lawful sport or pastimes which in this particular instance includes dog walking and stopping to chat.  At issue was whether those rights affect the port operator’s ability to run the port commercially and how they can comply with the directive of the health and safety executive to fence off a certain area that affects the public exercising their rights. The Court determined that the port operator’s activities were not criminalised after registration.  

It was held that after registration, the public could continue to use the land for its established activities as could the landowner. The rights of each should be used in a reasonable manner so as to co-exist. The publics’ rights should have regard to the interests of the landowner as recognised by the practical arrangements that had built up over time. This meant that the public’s use should be to "the standard of reasonableness". There must be some “give and take” in the arrangements and that in particular, the port operator had the legal right to carry on their existing commercial activities (including complying with directives from the health and safety executive) at the same general level regardless of the registration. In some circumstances they may even carry out new and different activities but not where those expanded rights would interfere with the locals’ established rights for recreation.

The decision will be welcomed by landowners as clarifying that registration of land as a Town or Village Green will not necessarily hinder their existing legitimate commercial use but it may prevent expansion or a change in activities that would interfere with the recreational rights.  It serves as a warning to landowners to be conscious of activities that are informally taking place on their land  and which could lead to an application for registration.

For further advice or information please contact Carolynn Davies on 0207 831 8888 or click here to contact Carolynn.