R (on the application of Lancashire County Council) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs & Janine Bebbington: R (on the application of NHS Property Services Ltd) v Surrey County Council & Timothy Jones (2018)
Why is it important?
Confirms whether land held by a public body for a statutory purpose can also be registered as a town / village green.
The Court of Appeal considered appeals against decisions concerning the registration of land as a town / village green under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006:
- Lancashire County Council (LCC) applied for judicial review of a decision by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to grant an application to register land as a town / village green. The LCC argued that the land was held for educational purposes and its registration as a town / village green would be incompatible with that statutory purpose.
- NHS Property Services Limited applied for judicial review of a decision by Surrey County Council to register land as a town / village green, on the ground that the land had always been held for purposes relating to healthcare and its registration as a town / village green would be incompatible with that statutory purpose.
What did the court say?
In both cases, there was no statutory incompatibility.
- In the first appeal, there was no statutory obligation to use the land in a particular way and the LCC would still be able to carry out its statutory educational functions if the public had the right to use the land for recreational purposes as a town / village green.
- In the second appeal, there was no statutory obligation to provide a hospital / healthcare facility on the land. There was no inherent inconsistency between the provisions in the statutory regime under which the land was held and the statutory provisions for registration as a village green.
For statutory incompatibility to defeat the registration of land as a town / village green there has to be an inherent inconsistency between the statutory purpose for which the land is held and its use for public recreation.