The Open Spaces Society called on the Welsh Government to introduce a statutory designation for open space, to ensure that it is properly protected and can be enjoyed by local people.

The society has responded to the Welsh Government consultation on changes to town and village green legislation in the Planning (Wales) Act 2015.  Town and village greens are land where local people have a right for informal recreation, and land can be registered as a green once local people have enjoyed such recreation for 20 years without being stopped or given permission.  Once registered, the land is protected from development and encroachment and local people have rights of recreation in perpetuity.

The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 restricts the opportunity to register such land where a planning application has been determined or where a development consent order has been made.  Thanks to campaigning by the Open Spaces Society the restriction on registering greens is less severe in Wales than it is in England.

However, the restriction in Wales is still significant and the society would like to see mitigation so that local people are not unfairly affected by the introduction of the new rules.

Village green at Penpedairheol, Caerphilly. Photo: Steve Morgan

Says our case officer Nicola Hodgson: ‘The Welsh Government has made no attempt to mitigate the impact of these restrictions on the registration of greens.  We urge the government in compensation to introduce a statutory designation for the protection of open space and its use by local people.  The seven principles in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 make clear that open space protection is crucial to the economy, health and well-being of Wales.  The government should be seeking additional ways of protecting open space to meet these aims.

‘We have also urged the Welsh Government, in drafting the commencement order relating to greens in the Planning (Wales) Act, to ensure that applications for greens which have been submitted but not determined before the commencement date are not prejudiced by any subsequent planning consent.(1)  It is only right that Wales should extend the same protection to applications to register greens already in play, as was done in England.’

The Planning Act will also introduce new powers to enable landowners to deposit a notice with the local authority to declare that there is no right of recreational use on land.  Any application for a green must then be made within two years of the notice being deposited.

1          Similar protection was conferred in relation to England by s.16(5) of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.  No equivalent provision appears in the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, but it could be affected by the commencement order which brings the relevant provisions of the 2015 Act into force.