17 February 2010

The Tangled Web

The BBC's emerging specialist reporter on the national scandal of spurious village green claims, Melanie Abbott, innocently gave a misleading statement during today's otherwise excellent You and Yours item on the subject.

She stated in her radio report that, to sustain a village green claim, use of the relevant application land must be "without the permission of the landowner".

This error is unintentional and entirely understandable.


The traditional situation was that a landowner could always protect his or her property from village green claims in one of two ways. Either:

a) by choosing to put up barbed wire and closing off the access points to the land, rendering it inaccessible or;

b) by simply giving permission to local people to use the land for lawful sports and recreation. This gave full protection from any future claims.

The change in the law

The perfectly reasonable defence that Melanie Abbott referred to - of an owner giving permission to use their land - has been removed. This was done by sub-section (7)(b) of Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. 

Melanie Abbott is just the latest person to innocently fall victim to the dishonest and convoluted legislation which tries to pretend that tarmac car parks, sites of effluent works, and beet fields are 'village greens'.  She won't be the last.

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 must be abolished.  This part of the legislation can never be got right, because it was fundamentally dishonest from the start and has been dealing with fakes ever since.  It was drafted from the unreasoning and hard-line ideology of Kate Ashbrook of the so-called Open Spaces Society and of Paul Johnson, an unelected quango employee, rather than from fairness and common sense.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."

The BBC News related article can be read here

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