In recent years parishes have become very aware of the need to protect their open spaces in the face of house-building pressures from Central Government and Borough Councils. Neighbourhood Plans are a way of allowing parishes to ‘have a say’ in the way land is developed. However, the only approach that guarantees a protection that is permanent and cannot be overturned by political whim is the designation of a Village Green.
A village green has long been used to describe land, rural or urban, over which the inhabitants of a particular locality hold customary recreational rights. The courts have formally recognised such customs as good in law since at least the seventeenth century.
The main benefits of registering land as a green are to:
- secure permanent recording of the land as a town or village green,
- protect the land from development and other forms of detrimental activity by bringing the registered land within the protection of the nineteenth-century legislation under which it is an offence to build on a green or to interrupt its use or enjoyment by the local community,
- secure the right of local people to enjoy the land for recreation in perpetuity,
- give the registered land a new status as land for the community, to be valued and enjoyed,
- ensure that existing and prospective owners are aware from the outset of the established recreational function of the land, so helping to avoid any future conflicts.
Accordingly, we have listed 6 areas of the parish which could be vulnerable to infilling and development:
- The Woughton Playing Fields
- The Paddocks in the north part of Woughton on The Green
- The land on the Green bordering on Bellis Grove
- The Orchard that runs from Newport Road to the canal, south of the pub
- The Redway Land (east of the canal) in the centre of Woughton Park
- The land between the redway and Passmore on the south side of the estate
The application process is easy; a simple form supported by questionnaires filled-in by residents who have enjoyed the land for at least 20 years. However, the owning organisations (Milton Keynes Council and or the Parks Trust) see village greens as a threat to their powers to control the use of the land. The recent Public Inquiry (October 2015) and the deployment of complex, arcane civil legal arguments over the Playing Fields application is a manifestation of the resistance we face in following this strategy.
Nevertheless, we will persist in these efforts. The protection of our beautiful green spaces that are a key part of the rural ambiance of our parish together with the irreplaceable amenities that they provide, are worth fighting for!
The land comprising the Woughton on the Green Playing Fields is currently owned by Milton Keynes Council who ‘inherited’ it in 1991 from the Milton Keynes Development Corporation. From the earliest period of the city local residents have roamed the land freely for recreational purposes and maintained a symbiotic relationship with those who have managed the sporting facilities.
The Village Green application was submitted in spring 2014 and included statements from 70 local residents who have used the land for at least 20 years and in several cases over 40 years.
The Public Inquiry in late Oct 2015 found against us on tight legal grounds surrounding Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) longstanding implicit access permission to the public. The fact that the whole process cost MKC over £25,000 has caused Borough Councillors to review their internal processes for VG applications.