The situation is made even more ludicrous by the fact the land is often privately owned – and those claiming village green status would have been guilty of trespassing if they had, as they claim, enjoyed using it for leisure.
The delaying tactic – which is used after planning permission has already been given for housing developments – is hugely costly both in monetary terms and in the time wasted in dealing with the spurious application, which stands no realistic chance of being accepted.
The Federation said it was unacceptable local people in desperate need of an affordable house in many areas of rural England were left in limbo as a result of the NIMBYs’ time-wasting tactic – not knowing when or if new developments would ever get built.
In the Peak District, plans to build 600 new affordable homes have been put on hold for over two years after around 20 "bogus" village green applications were made by opponents of the schemes – in a clear attempt to derail the process.
The situation has become so desperate for High Peak district council – which owns the land – that it has enlisted the help of local MP Tom Levitt, who has pushed for a change in the law to prevent the tactic being used elsewhere.
Representation at public inquiries resulting from village green bids has already cost the council and taxpayer huge sums of money. A recent decision cost the council more than £100,000 in legal advice alone.
The delays come as a blow to the 22,000 households on a waiting list for an affordable home in the picturesque area, which is already struggling to keep local families
NIMBYs are using two 19th century laws – The Enclosure Act 1857 and the Commons Act 1876 – which make it a criminal offence to do anything that may injure the green, or interrupt the use of enjoyment of it as a place for exercise or recreation by placing anything on the green.
But two key changes in the legislation in 1999 and 2006 paved the way for the current flood of village green applications. It means people can register open spaces as town or village greens if they prove the area has been used by local people for at least 20 years, without the permission of the landowner but without being secretive or forcing their way on to the land.
Crucially a village green application can go in after planning permission has already been granted – opening the way for those opposed to development to apply for village green status.
Federation chief executive David Orr said: "Village greens play an important part in community life in many villages and towns, and genuine greens need the full protection of the law.
"However, increasing numbers of people are submitting inappropriate village green applications in a cynical attempt to stop the building of new homes – sometimes delaying the delivery of desperately needed new housing by years and wasting millions of pounds of pounds of taxpayers money in the process.
"We welcome the Government’s decision to review the village green registration process. However, it is critical that ministers move quickly to change the law so that the NIMBYs are stopped from abusing the system."
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