The guillotine has dropped. Today the government’s spiteful Growth and Infrastructure Act came into force, sweeping away the opportunity to register land as a village green in England when that land is earmarked for development.
Not only does the act change the law which enables people to record their rights to enjoy local spaces, but it also strikes at the heart of prescription, the ancient right whereby an activity enjoyed for 20 years without force, secrecy or permission, acquires the sanction of law.
Despite the strenuous efforts of the Open Spaces Society and others, the act is even worse than the original bill. The government, having claimed that the new measures would not affect existing greens-law, then backed amendments which do just that, making it harder to register any qualifying land. These amendments were introduced at a late stage of the bill in the House of Lords, when they should have been included at the start, giving MPs the chance to debate them (read more in blog passim).
The Lords’ amendments went back to the Commons but the Commons debate was guillotined and the greens amendments were never even discussed. So much for democracy.
The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 amends section 15 of the Commons Act 2006, outlawing applications to register as a green land which is subject to one of a number of trigger events related to planning and development. It will also reduce the grace period, within which an application to register land after use is challenged, from two years to one year. From October this year, when the regulations have been written, it will enable a landowner to deposit a statement with the commons registration authority, challenging use of land by the public to prevent it from becoming eligible for registration.
Tragically, we have a government which apparently doesn’t care about demolishing centuries of custom and practice, and certainly doesn’t care about green spaces if they stand in the way of development.