Regina (Alfred McAlpine Homes Ltd) v Staffordshire County Council: 17 Jan 2002

The court refused to set aside the council’s decision to register as a common a lesser area then applied for. ‘ Does the council have power to register a smaller area than applied for? It is perfectly true that there is no express power in either the Act or the Regulations to register a smaller area of land. I have set out the relevant enactments above. The Regulations require that the application must be in a particular form, and that form requires that the land the subject of the application should be identified. However, it has to be recognised that those who make applications for registration are not necessarily expert cartographers. Plainly, they will not have the benefit, as the inspector did, of being able to consider all of the relevant evidence for and against registration of a particular parcel of land. What is the purpose of identifying the land in the application? The answer is, so that the registration authority can give appropriate notice to owners, lessees, tenants or occupiers, or to others who might wish to object to an application to register. It seems to me that, provided the boundary is not altered in such a way as to defeat that purpose of defining the land in the application form, for example by including land which might be owned, tenanted or occupied by others, there can be no sensible objection to the registration authority cutting down the extent of land to be registered. Mr Ryan’s decision [as an inspector in Spring Common] is readily understandable on the facts. In that case it would appear that a significant building which, on any basis, could not form part of a town or village green, had been carelessly included in an application. One can well understand that such an egregious error might have been fatal to that particular application, but that is very different from the facts of the present case. The applicants sought the registration of Ladydale Meadow. There was debate as to the extent to which they had used the whole of the 20 acres of the meadow. The inspector found that they had not used the whole of it. There is no question of carelessness or of the inclusion of a parcel of land that could not on any basis form part of a town or village green. Moreover, what is of importance is that no prejudice to the claimant in the present case has been suggested. Mr Wolton submits that the Wheatcroft case is not analogous to the present case because a planning permission will generally confer benefits upon the landowner, whereas a registration as a town or village green will be detrimental to an owner’s interests. Provided the registration authority does not step outside the boundary of the application and provided the landowner, tenant and occupier have had ample opportunity to make their representations, it is difficult to see why, as a matter of common sense, the registration authority should not be able to register a lesser area, provided it is not substantially different from that which has been applied for. There is no substantial difference here, only a more accurate definition of the boundaries in the light of all of the evidence. I accept Mr Mynors’ submission that it is implicit in an application to register an area of land that the applicant is saying that each and every part of that land is registrable as a town or village green. It would be quite artificial to require an applicant to split up the application site into a number of smaller parcels. Even if I am wrong about this and the registration authority does not have power itself to register a lesser area than that applied for, this court has a discretion as to whether or not to grant relief. As a matter of discretion I can see no useful purpose being served by quashing the council’s decision to register a lesser area. The only consequence would be that the applicants for registration would be able to put in a fresh application to register the lesser area. The inspector’s report recommending registration of that lesser area would be public knowledge and would plainly be evidence that could be put forward at any further inquiry, if there were to be one, and, absent any material change of circumstances or new evidence, precisely the same conclusion would be reached. Thus it seems to me, absent any prejudice to the claimant on the facts of the present case, it would be pointless to grant relief on such a limited basis.’
Sullivan J
[2002] EWHC 76 (Admin)
Commons Registration Act 1965
England and Wales
CitedBernard Wheatcroft Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment CA 1982
The developer originally sought permission for 450 homes. That was refused. Before the appeal, it proposed an alternative with 250 homes to be adopted only if the size of the development were considered to be the critical factor. The inspector . .

Cited by:
CitedOxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council, Catherine Mary Robinson ChD 22-Jan-2004
Land had been registered in part as a common. The council appealed.
Held: The rights pre-existing the Act had not been lost. The presumption against retrospectively disapplying vested rights applied, and the application had properly been made. . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 10 May 2021; Ref: scu.192184