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Ask The Legal Expert - Village Greens

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I’m considering buying up some neighbouring land, to increase the footprint of my farm. However, it looks like some of the land is being used by dog walkers and sometimes drone enthusiasts; I’m concerned these activities will continue once I purchase the plot. I intend to work the land so I don’t want it to be open for public access. What should I do?

You are wise to raise this as an issue. If members of the public are using the land there is the risk that public rights of way may be created or the land may become a village green. However unlikely this may sound, it is a real risk and it can prevent land being developed and may interfere with agricultural use.

This term Village Green might conjure up a picture of a cared-for cricket pitch or parkland in the middle of town, but in fact almost any area of ground, whether grassed, tarmacked, or rough ground can become village green, if it has been used for sports or pastimes for more than 20 years. These pastimes do not have to be formal sports. They can include dog walking, picnicking, even blackberry picking.

In order for a parcel of land to be registered as a village green it must be shown that a significant number of local residents have used the space for lawful pastimes for at least 20 years, as of right. That would probably prevent development of the land and restrict the use that you could make of it.

Insofar as potential rights of way are concerned, if you have members of the public using a path across your land that is not already a confirmed public right of way, you should seek legal advice – again a path may be deemed to be dedicated as a public right of way if there is use for 20 years or more.

This is a complex topic and it is important to get detailed legal advice as there are steps you can take to protect your position both in terms of village greens and potential rights of way.

The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.

For further advice, please contact our specialist Rural Practice Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 225472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671