New procedures for protecting your land
The Government has introduced new regulations that impose a prescribed form of statement that must, from 1 October 2013, be submitted to the relevant authority in order to rebut the presumption of the creation of a public right of way or a town and village green.
Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 contains a procedure which a landowner can follow to rebut a presumption of deemed dedication of a public right of way. Historically, this has involved the submission of a statutory declaration or statement and a plan in a bespoke format without any reliance on any standard wording. The statement is then held on a public register. A fee is generally not imposed by the local authority.
The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 introduced a mechanism, similar to that for public rights of way, whereby a landowner can deposit a statement and map for the purpose of bringing to an end a period of recreational use, as of right, on the landowner's land, which in turn should prevent any future application for the registration of a town and village green. This will only come into force from 1 October 2013 and accordingly represents a new means of protection against town and village green registration.
The new Regulations encompass statements made in relation to both public rights of way and town and village greens and provide a prescribed form of application, set out in the Schedule to the Regulations, where insertions and omissions can be made subject to the circumstances. The application must be signed by the landowner (or a party authorised by the landowner) and either accompanied by an Ordnance map at a scale of not less than 1:10,560 showing the boundary of the land to which the application relates or refer to a map previously deposited.
Importantly, the relevant authority may also charge a fee.
Upon receipt of a valid application the relevant authority must publish notice of the application on their website, serve email notice on anyone who has provided the appropriate authority with an email address for that purpose and, interestingly, for not less than 60 days, post notice of the application at or near an obvious place of entry to the land or, if there is no obvious place of entry, at least one conspicuous place on the boundary.
The form will then be kept by the relevant authority on a public register.
Under the Regulations it is possible to make a joint statement for both public rights of way and town and village greens, and this would seem the more obvious route to provide complete protection.
So, from 1 October 2013, any party (be it a solicitor, land agent or landowner themselves) must follow the prescribed form when preparing and submitting such statements and be aware of the publication requirements of the local authority. The form itself is relatively straight forward and undoubtedly local authorities will provide further guidance on this and publication as well as details on any potential fees in due course.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.