Planning: not in my backyard

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Housebuilders, large and small, are all too familiar with the well-established ‘weapons of choice’ aimed at delaying or thwarting development. Planning objections (from spurious to sophisticated), appeals (from technical to substantive) and protracted judicial review applications can seriously delay a development schedule or, in the worst case, defeat it altogether. In either event, costs can be significantly increased. In recent times, neighbouring owners, community groups and other interested parties have also begun to do battle on fronts beyond planning territory.

The marked increase in the popularity of applications to register land as a town or village green as a means of opposing development over the last few years was prompted, in part, due to the fact that the Commons Act 2006 allowed for reconsideration of applications that had previously failed. The ready availability of advice online for those interested in pursuing this route, both from DEFRA and organisations such as the Open Space Society, also helped to promote the popularity of, and facilitate, the process.

Registration has proved to be a particularly powerful weapon against development of unbuilt greenfield sites: the effect of it is that it becomes a criminal offence to develop a village green and confers a legal right for the local community to use the land for recreation so that the owner cannot put it to a new use that interferes with that. While the application process varies, depending on the location of the land, it is a relatively straightforward, inexpensive and slow process (according to a DEFRA survey, the average time from application to determination being 16 months), which can seriously frustrate a prospective disposal by delay or, if the application is successful, by rendering the land undevelopable…

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