Case details

R (on the application of Lancashire County Council) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Respondent)

Case ID: UKSC 2018/0094

Case summary

  1. Does the concept of ‘statutory incompatibility’ apply to prevent land from being registered as a village green where it is held for general statutory purposes?
  2. What is the correct approach to alleged errors of fact in the public law arena?
  3. Does an application for registration of land as a village green have to show that there was a geographical spread of users from the locality in question?
  4. Does a qualifying locality under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 have to have remained the same legal entity throughout the relevant 20-year period?
  5. What standard of reasoning is required by a Registering Authority which disagrees with an Inspector’s views?

The Court is concerned with two appeals which were linked in the Court of Appeal and are linked in the Supreme Court.

The Lancashire case concerns an area of land (‘Moorside Fields’) which borders a primary school. Upon an application to register the land as a village green, an Inspector concluded that most of the land should be so registered, rejecting the Appellant’s arguments that the land was held for statutory purposes which were inconsistent with the registration of the land as a village green. The Appellant brought a claim for judicial review of this decision, which was unsuccessful in the High Court.

The NHS case concerns an area of land (‘Leach Grove Wood’), which neighbours an NHS hospital. An application was made for the land to be registered as a village green and an Inspector was engaged to conduct a non-statutory inquiry. Following this inquiry, the recommendation of the Inspector was that the land should not be registered, though this was on the basis that there was no relevant neighbourhood rather than on the basis of statutory incompatibility as had been argued by the Appellant. Despite the Inspector’s views, Surrey County Council nevertheless decided to register the land and the Appellant successfully challenged this registration in the High Court.

The Court of Appeal rejected the Appellant’s appeal in the Lancashire case and granted the Respondent’s (then Appellant)’s appeal in the NHS case, such that the registration of both plots of land was upheld. The Appellant landowners in both cases now appeal to the Supreme Court.

Judgment appealed

[2018] EWCA Civ 721



Lancashire County Council

  1. Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs
  2. James Bebbington



Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lady Black, Lady Arden, Lord Sales

Hearing start date

15 Jul 2019

Hearing finish date

16 Jul 2019

Judgment hand down date

11 Dec 2019

Watch hearing
15 Jul 2019 Morning session
16 Jul 2019 Morning session Afternoon session