3 February 2010

A Snake In The Grass

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 is the badly thought-through recent statute that attempts to deal with modern so-called 'town and village greens'.  It came into force on 6 April 2007 and needs urgent repeal or, at the very least, serious corrective amendment.

Proposed housing and regeneration schemes are the favoured targets for damaging and growing claims made using this legislation.

Such claims - that someone's property is a 'village green' - have very substantial nuisance value even if they don't succeed.  They are now a favoured device used by objectors in stopping or frustrating many legitimate developments.

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 leads to gross injustice for individuals as well as other landowners such as public bodies.

The serious problems that the proposed new law would bring were easily forseeable.  Before it came into force the following predictions appeared in Estates Gazette*:
"The threat to land values and development schemes posed by village green law will take a major turn for the worse."

"As a result of the Act, any landowner that has taken steps to protect its land in the past five years will have that protection taken away."
"The new law will create uncertainty for landowners and developers."
"Proving a negative is hard work, made more difficult by local people being unwilling to assist the landowner and/or giving dishonest evidence."

*The author of the article 'Landowners face a snake in the grass', which appeared on 17 March 2007, was Julian Boswall.  At the time he was at Eversheds LLP, and is now a partner at law firm Burgess Salmon.

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