A High Court ruling has confirmed that some beaches can be registered as ‘village greens’. No, this isn’t a late April Fool. Great, isn’t it!!
Mr Justice Ouseley, in a judgment of 21 March last, stated “I can see no answer to the contention that the ordinary meaning of the words used by Parliament to define “town or village green” are broad enough to permit the registration of a tidal beach, provided that the nature, quality and duration of the recreational user satisfies the statutory test.”
He added “Parliament has chosen its words, on three occasions so as to exclude any notion of a requirement that the registered green be “grassy” or “traditional”.”
This ruling could have an impact on many beaches around the country.
However, in this particular case, the judge quashed a December 2010 resolution by East Sussex County Council stating that a sandy beach within the Port of Newhaven was a ‘town or village green’. The resolution was passed despite the fact that the beach was covered by the sea for 42% of the time.
In summing up his judgment, Mr Justice Ouseley stated “since registration is not compatible with the statutory purpose for which the land is held by the Claimant, it cannot be registered and I allow the claim, and quash the County Council’s decision”.
This outline of the judgment is taken from the website* of one of the QCs acting in the case:
- there is no requirement that a town or village green have the characteristics of a “traditional” village green and it was no impediment to registration under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 that it was tidal
- the fact that the tidal boundary was subject to variation was no impediment to registration
- the fact that use was interrupted for 42% of the time was no impediment to registration: it was no different in law or rationality to the facts in the Trap Grounds case where no more than 25% of the application site was accessible
- the fact that the land was subject to byelaws was irrelevant if users of the land would not have known about them
- there was no presumption that use of the foreshore was permissive
- there does not have to be public access to a claimed village green.
Credits to Tim Grant for bringing this to my attention first, *the Francis Taylor Building Chambers website, and also the article published in the Independent newspaper on 21 March 2012.