Current legislation means that building work that has been granted planning permission or is undergoing community consultation can be delayed while the legal process of considering a Town and Village Green (TVG) application takes place. It is possible for houses to be built, bought and even lived in before a TVG application is made, leaving residents with great uncertainty as to the future of their homes.
Abuse of TVG legislation means that some communities have to wait for years to discover whether there will be new housing or job opportunities in their local area. In the right place, these developments are key to helping more aspiring people on to the housing ladder and giving businesses a better chance to grow.
Costs to taxpayers, land owners and local investors can run into millions of pounds while a TVG application goes through the courts. The current legislation also serves as a disincentive to investment in areas which communities wish to see developed.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
"Town and village greens are cherished community spaces, and it's absolutely right they continue to have the strongest protection.
"Yet the system can be abused to stop developments like affordable housing from being built. We're stamping down on the abuse of this law that can effectively shut local communities out of deciding what development is right for them. This Government has a vital mission to support growth and spread aspiration, and these new plans will help that to happen."
Reform will protect local communities' ability to determine what development is appropriate in their areas by preventing TVG applications overriding decisions made following local consultation on plans.
The new approach will prevent TVG applications when an application for planning permission has been made or granted, and when land has been allocated for development by the local authority.
There are already well over 4,000 existing TVGs and they will retain full protection. TVGs can continue to be registered where no development is either proposed or the subject of ongoing community consultation.
Under the plans, private landowners who wish to allow some public use of their land will now be able to do so without jeopardising its value or future development potential. Currently, if a landowner does not challenge public use of his or her land for a period of twenty years, any future use for business, farming or development use may be ruled out by a TVG registration.
Financial savings from the changes are likely to run to many millions in the short term, and significantly more in the longer term. This includes savings to local authorities, developers and landowners through cuts to legal fees, public enquiry costs and costs resulting from devaluation of land and delays.
Longer term financial benefits will arise from increased certainty around how local land will be used, social improvements and economic growth from jobs and development.
The reforms to the legislation are expected to come into force by summer 2013.