Oxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council and another


Reference:
[2006] 2 AC 674

Date:
24th May 2006

Court:
House of Lords

Comment:

In 2002, an application was made by Miss Catherine Mary Robinson to Oxfordshire County Council (as registration authority for the purposes of the Commons Registration Act 1965) for the registration as a new town or village green of an area of land in north Oxford known as the Trap Grounds. The landowner, Oxford City Council, objected. A non-statutory public inquiry was held, and the inspector recommended registration. The City Council challenged some of the grounds on which the recommendation was based, and the County Council took a second counsel’s opinion on legal issues which differed in material respects from the inspector’s report. The County Council, with the agreement of Miss Robinson and the City Council, commenced proceedings in which it sought guidance from the High Court on a number of legal questions to assist it to determine Miss Robinson’s application.

Among the issues arising were whether the registration authority had power to allow Miss Robinson to amend her application by withdrawing some of the land, as she had sought to do; whether (without any such amendment) it had power to register part only of the application site, as the inspector had recommended it should; and whether the inspector had approached the matter correctly by considering only the evidence of use during the 20 year period immediately preceding the date of her application, although she had specified 1 August 1990 as the date when the land “became a green”. There was disagreement as to whether he should have considered the application by reference to the original definition of “town or village green” or the definition as amended in 2001; and whether the amended definition required qualifying use to continue after the date of application up to the date of registration.

The Judge made declarations in response to the questions, some of which were reversed by the Court of Appeal.

 

Held:
On the proper construction of the Commons Registration Act 1965 and the Commons Registration (New Land) Regulations 1969:

1.applications for registration of land as a new town or village green made after 30 January 2001 had to be determined applying the amended definition of “town or village green” introduced by section 98 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 on that date;

2.for the purposes of that definition, the date up to which the requisite use had to continue was the date of the application for registration;

3.registration of land as a town or village green gives rise to rights for the relevant local inhabitants to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes on it, and brings it within the scope of section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and section 29 of the Commons Act 1876;

4.the registration authority has broad powers to allow amendment of applications for registration of town or village greens, and (without any such amendment) to register part only of the land included in an application.

This case presented the House of Lords with an opportunity to address a number of unresolved issues regarding the registration of new town or village greens under the Commons Registration Act 1965, including such fundamental questions as whether newly registered greens are subject to recreational rights for the benefit of local inhabitants, and to the provisions for the protection of town and village greens in Victorian legislation. Questions about the applicability and interpretation of the amended definition of “town or village green” introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 were also definitively answered.

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