Applications to register land as a town or village green can be made where "a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years”. However, the land still belongs to the landowner, which can clash with the wishes of those applying to register a village green. This was considered in a recent legal case.
TW Logistics owned quays in the port of Mistley, in Essex. Due to the risk of employees and others falling into the water, TW Logistics fenced a previously open quayside.
After a public inquiry the local authority registered the quayside as a town or village green in recognition of its use by local residents throughout the 20-year period ending with the erection of the fence. The landowner's challenge to that registration was dismissed, as the judge found that the recreational uses of the quayside were not incompatible with the carrying on of commercial activity.
This now places TW Logistics in a difficult position. As the landowner, it has the legal right to continue its use of the land, but the area cannot be fenced anymore and future development of the quays could be prevented by the registration.
Landowners should actively manage their land to protect their legal rights, otherwise adverse consequences may follow.