Report - An application to register land along the Disused Railway Line at Endon as a Town or village Green was received on 9 September 2011, under Section 15 (2) of the Commons Act 2006, by Ms Wendy Birks. Following receipt the application was designated as NGV 27 before it was advertised and the landowners were informed. Subsequently the Director of Law and Governance received objections primarily from Network Rail, the landowner, and Moorlands and City Railways, the leaseholder. There were further objections from Churnet Valley Railway, Endon with Stanley Parish Council, Staffordshire County Council (in its capacity as Planning and Transport Authority), Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Office of the Rail Regulator, County Councillor C Jebb, along with other councillors and members of the public.
In order to prove that land had become a Village Green, Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 sets out the criteria which must be proved –
(a) a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of not less than 20 years; and
(b) they continue to do so at the time of the application.
All of the ‘legal tests’ as set out in the Act must be satisfied to enable land to be registered as a Village Green.
The objections received from Network Rail included reference to s55 of the British Transport Commission Act 1949, which states to trespass on a railway line is a criminal offence. While the railway line is not currently in use, it could be brought in to operation at short notice and was still part of the network, therefore s 55 still applied to the railway line. Network Rail also noted that the use of the land could not be considered as a Village Green as it had not been used in its entirety, but merely as a footpath from one point to another, therefore the usage was as a highway. Network Rail is a statutory entity as provided for in Acts of Parliament and a TVG registration would be incompatible with its functions under that legislation and so registration could not take place.
The Panel, who acted for Staffordshire County Council in its capacity as the Registration Authority, considered the Application in detail and concluded that the application did not fully satisfy the legal tests as set out in Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 (above). Counsel’s opinion was sought, and Mr Philip Petchey QC, concurred with officers, that the application should fail on the grounds that it did not satisfy the 20 years recreational use and the land was not used ‘as of right’.
RESOLVED - That the Application reference number NVG27, for the registration of land described as Land along the Disused Railway Line at Endon be refused as laid out in the report of the Director of Law & Governance and Mr Petchey QC.