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  6. Landmark village green ruling

Landmark village green ruling

The Supreme Court has ordered Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council to register Coatham Common on the north side of Redcar adjoining the beach on the North Sea coast as a village green, reversing earlier High Court and Court of Appeal rulings.

The Open Spaces Society has backed local residents in their bid to register the land, used as a golf course, as a village green over the past five years.

For land to be registered as a green, local people had to show that a significant number of them have used the land “as of right” for informal recreation for at least 20 years.

The local authority and the lower courts argued that, in using the land for informal recreation, local people had given way to the golfers, so their use had not been ‘as of right’.   

However, five Supreme Court judges have allowed the appeal.

Giving the leading judgment, Lord Walker said: “I have great difficulty in seeing how a reasonable owner would have concluded that the residents were not asserting a right to take recreation on the disputed land, simply because they normally showed civility towards members of the golf club who were out playing golf.  It is not as if the residents took to their heels and vacated the land whenever they saw a golfer.” 

Both Lords Walker and Rodger observed that registration of land as a green would be unlikely to result in a change in its use by local inhabitants.

Kate Ashbrook, society general secretary, said: “This monumental decision clarifies the law on registering land as new greens. The Supreme Court has said beyond all doubt that use of land as a green can co-exist with the landowner’s activities.

“In the past, applications have been rejected merely because the local people were civil and deferred to the use by the landowner—whether he was making hay or playing golf.” 

Read the case summary from the Supreme Court website [PDF]

Read the Open Spaces Society press release


Roger Milne

11 March 2010