Appeal Court rules on village green cases

Campaigners making use of the village and town green safeguarding regime have had mixed fortunes in the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal upheld last November’s decision of the High Court over the status of Markham and Little Francis village green at Weymouth in Dorset.

The judges determined that the land was wrongly registered as a green. It will be removed from the register, leaving it vulnerable to development, and local people will lose their right to use it for lawful sports and pastimes.

The 42-acre site was registered by Dorset County Council as a village green in 2001 under the Commons Registration Act 1965. In 2004 the land was purchased by prospective developers, Betterment Properties Ltd.

Four years after the council registered the land as a green, Betterment applied to the High Court to have it struck from the register, challenging Dorset County Council’s decision.

The Appeal Court judges agreed with the earlier High Court ruling that the land should never have been registered a village green.

The High Court judge had found that the use by the public of the land over a 20-year period was not “as of right”, as required by the laws on village greens, because the previous landowners had erected signs saying ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ and because some people had accessed the land by making gaps in the fences and hedges and had committed acts of vandalism and worried cattle.

The Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis, a member of the Open Spaces Society which has contributed to the fighting fund, is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

But in a separate ruling the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court judgment, so that Clayton Fields at Birkby, Huddersfield, will now be registered as a village green.

The 6.5 acres of sloping, partly-wooded, green space was first registered as a green in 1997, under the Commons Registration Act 1965. The registration was overturned in the High Court on a technical point.

The Open Spaces Society has supported the Clayton Fields Action Group in its campaign to register the land, and provided funding to assist it.

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