The phrase ‘village green’ generally brings to mind the traditional image of dancing around the maypole in a quaint village on a summer’s day. In reality, the term has a more complex and potentially challenging meaning. For example, a village green may not be as easy to spot as the mental image painted above.

Tristan Wark

Tristan Wark

In the recent case TW Logistics v Essex County Council and another [2021] UKSC 4, the ‘green’ in question was a 200 sq m area of concrete in a working port.

A ‘Class C’ green under section 22 of the Commons Registration Act 1965 is broadly “land on which a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality…have indulged in lawful sports and pastimes as of right for not less than 20 years”. There is no legal distinction between town greens and village greens other than the geographical location of the green.

Upon site acquisition, a property solicitor should, where appropriate, carry out a commons registration search to identify whether land is currently registered as a town or village green.

Village green

Source: Shutterstock / Matthew Dixon

However, the absence of registration does not preclude registration in the future, and a commons registration search offers no protection against future registrations. Where buying land, particularly that which is earmarked for development, it is important to look out for any physical signs that the land is being accessed by the public.

The topic of village greens is vast and complex and not easily summarised in one column, but as a simple take-home, be aware that they can be a serious issue for developers – if land is registered or is at risk of registration as a green, such status is likely to prevent development of such land.

The facts of R (on the application of Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland BC [2010] UKSC 11 related to a proposed property development on a golf course and objectors to the development successfully applying to classify the golf course as village green due to it having been used for informal recreation.

Tristan Wark is senior associate in the commercial real estate team at Goodman Derrick