Protection of village greens

Village greens enjoy statutory protection under two nineteenth century Acts.

Read summaries of the most relevant Acts here.

Inclosure Act 1857 (Section 12)

Under this section, it is a criminal offence for any person to damage any fence of a town or village green; or wilfully and without lawful authority to put animals or cattle on the green; or wilfully to place any materials upon the green or do anything to interrupt the use or enjoyment of the green as a place for recreation and enjoyment. Offences are summary in nature and are tried in the Magistrates' Courts.

Commons Act, 1876 (Section 29)

Under this section, encroachments or enclosures, or the placing of any structures upon town or village greens, are a public nuisance. Work carried out with a view to better enjoyment of the town or village green or recreation ground (i.e. linked to enhancing its recreational use) is not unlawful.

In both the above instances, legal action would be brought in the Magistrates' Courts. An action may be brought under Section 12 of the Inclosure Act, 1857 by either the parish / community council (or the district council if there is no parish council), or the landowner. In the case of Section 29 of the Commons Act, 1876, the process is the same as for the Inclosure Act, but an action can also be brought by any inhabitant of the Parish.

The likely outcome of any successful prosecution in the Magistrates' Courts would be a fine upon the person responsible for the encroachment or works.

Vehicular access over common land and village greens

Following the repeal of Section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, DEFRA have provided up-to-date non statutory guidance on vehicular access over Common Land and Village Greens.