Campaigners are welcoming a new law which gives increased protection to village greens.

From tomorrow, Good Friday, a section of the Commons Act 2006 comes into force, limiting one of the ways landowners can thwart registration of land as a green.

 Nicola Hodgson, the Open Spaces Society’s case officer, said:  “This clarification of the law will make it easier for people to apply to register land as a town or village green, thereby saving it from development and securing its enjoyment by the local population.

“The new provisions limit the ways in which a landowner can defeat an application.  

“They provide a period of grace after the use of land, as of right, has been ended by a landowner, during which an application can be made.  Before now, the use had to continue right up to the date of registration, which meant that landowners could thwart an application by erecting a notice saying ‘keep out’.”

The law says that if land has been used for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ for 20 years, it can be registered as a green. The term has been taken to mean ordinary recreation.

Periods of enforced closure such as when there is an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease will be disregarded in considering the 20-year use rule.

The Open Spaces Society, which campaigns for the protection of commons, open spaces, greens and public footpaths, is also encouraging landowners to dedicate areas as village greens, which the new Act allows for the first time.