The British Property Federation (BPF) has warned the government it risks hindering development and economic growth further unless there is greater clarity on village green proposals.
While welcoming the launch of a government consultation that could tighten the practice of using village green legislation to block development, it warned the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) could be giving with one hand and taking away with the other, amid plans for ‘green space’ designations as introduced in the Natural Environment white paper.
Current legislation allows land to be registered as a village green with vexatious nominations often used to block or delay development. Launching the consultation Defra said: "The law relating to greens is notoriously complex and there is concern that some registration applications have been used to hinder legitimate development of schools, health centres and other much needed services, even on brownfield land."
Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "For too long, applications have been put forward for village green status with the explicit aim of holding up or blocking legitimate development.
"It costs nothing to nominate a piece of land as a village green but it is costly and time consuming for landowners and developers. Anything that can be done to reduce this burden while minimising nominations purely aimed at blocking development should be looked at."
However, details that first emerged in the Natural Environment white paper and supported in yesterday’s draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) allow local residents to "earmark for special consideration local ‘green space’ land – whether its value is in its natural beauty, its historic resonances, its recreational value, its tranquillity or its importance as wildlife habitat".
Liz Peace added: "Green space designation sounds like a return to the Town and Village Green Act in all but name.
"We recognise the need to protect green areas that are of genuine value to communities, but do question the decision to consult on trying to reduce vexatious village green nominations at the same time as the Natural Environment white paper allows residents to earmark and protect ‘green space’ land – there is a real danger of a muddled approach that could stifle development and economic growth."