26 / 06 / 20
Those of you who have walked around the fields of Chapel Farm recently may have noticed the signs that have gone up regarding a declaration under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 and Section 15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006.
It has rightly raised some suspicion in the local community and we have been contacted by a number of you concerned about what this means.
Put simply, the current landowner of the farm has put in place a protection order to stop any further Public Rights of Way being made across the land in addition to those already there. As you’ll see from the map, the farm already has a number of Rights of Way across it and these remain unchanged.
It also allows the owner to protect the land from any speculative applications from the community for the land to be designated Town or Village Green (TVG) under the Commons Act of 1965. TVG status is reserved for land that ‘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 at least 20 years’.
As a community, we would have to prove that we have had unrestricted access to the land of Chapel Farm and have used it for all different types of recreational activity over the last two decades.
TVG applications cannot be applied for once the land has been identified as a potential site for development as part of a local development plan (or Local Plan). This would likely formally come into effect in October 2020 with the first public consultation on the Maidstone Local Plan Review.
If residents of Lenham and Lenham Heath were minded to consider making an application for TVG status of Chapel Farm we would need to prepare significant evidence to prove we’ve had unrestricted access to the land for a range of different activities. This could be difficult given its principal use has been for crop growing and the fields predominantly used for walking along the existing Public Rights of Way.
If you’d like to learn more about TVG status visit the Open Spaces Society.
To view the full application of the deposited map and statement for Chapel Farm, visit the Kent County Council website.