Venue: Swale 3, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions
Contact: Andrew Tait 03000 416749
(1) The Principal Legal Orders Officer introduced the application by saying that it had been made by Brabourne Parish Council on 1 February 2016 under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 and the Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014.
(2) The Principal Legal Orders Officer referred Appendix A of his report which showed the layout of the application site. He added that the applicants had included 61 user evidence questionnaires which were summarised at Appendix C of the report.
(3) The Principal Legal Orders Officer then said that the vast majority of the application site was owned by Mr. R. Johnson and Ms. C. Johnson and was currently let under an agricultural tenancy to a local farmer. A small slither of land in the south-western corner (abutting Lees Road) was registered to the Kent County Council whose Property Team had been consulted but had not yet responded.
(4) The Principal Legal Orders Officer continued that an objection to the application had been received from Gladman Developments Ltd who had made an application for planning permission to develop the land for residential development. This application was the subject of a separate process and could have no bearing upon the determination of the Village Green application.
(5) The objection had been made on the grounds that the applicant needed to provide strict proof as to the status of the alleged neighbourhood and the boundaries of the localities relied upon; that use of the site consisted primarily of walking the existing Public Footpaths, which was not a qualifying use for the purposes of the Village Green application. Any wider recreational use was insufficient to demonstrate that the land had been in regular usage by the local community. The objectors also claimed that the site had been used for the growing of crops on a five-year rotation, which meant that the site as a whole had not been available for recreational use; and that some use had been challenged by the tenant farmer or had taken place with the landowners’ permission. The objector had also provided 13 witness statements from people familiar with the application site, including both landowners and the tenant farmers. These claimed that any use of the site had been predominantly along the existing Public Footpaths and that any wider recreational use that may have taken place would necessarily have been interrupted by the agricultural use of the site (predominantly for wheat and barley crops). It was also suggested that claims of recreational use had only recently arisen, apparently in response to proposals to develop the land. In the objector’s view, the only just way to resolve the serious dispute about the application would be to hold a Public Inquiry.
(6) The Principal Legal Orders Officer then turned to consideration of the legal tests which all needed to be passed for the application to succeed. The first of these was whether use of the land has been “as of right.” This meant that use needed to have taken place without force, ... view the full minutes text for item 3.