NEW rules are set to come into force to prevent people from submitting town green applications in an attempt to protect open spaces.

Changes in legislation have been introduced because of concerns about the impact town and village green applications were having on the planning system.

Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for ruling on town green applications, is set to adopt changes to help landowners looking to protect their land.

But one conservationist who managed to protect the Trap Grounds in North Oxford says new legislation will make it “impossible” for similar spaces to be protected.

Catherine Robinson, secretary of the Friends of the Trap Grounds, said: “I think this new law is very retrogressve and makes it impossible for community groups to nominate town and village greens.

“It will be impossible to do so without the agreement and permission of the landowner.

“There will be a few cases like that but I think there will be an awful lot of cases which aren’t.

“The law has now swung entirely in favour of the landowner.”

In 2004, a planning application was submitted to build 45 homes on the Trap Grounds but this development would have contravened the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which protects common lizards, slow worms, water voles, and pipistrelle and noctule bats.

A lengthy town green battle was launched which ended in the House of Lords and success for the Friends of the Trap Groundsl.

Land can be registered as a green if it has been used for recreational activity for 20 years or more by local people as of right.

But in the Growth & Infrastructure Act 2013 the Government removed what it called “bureaucratic barriers that stop British business from successfully creating economic growth and local jobs”.

This includes measures which allow a landowner to deposit a statement to bring to an end any period of recreational use of land “as of right”, protecting against any claim to register the land as a green.

The county council proposes to charge between £180 and £220 for landowners to do this.

In a report, county council officer Martin Kemp says: “Claims to record previously unrecorded public rights of way or to register land as a town or village green can be very expensive for landowners to defend when contested.

“Successful claims can have a major effect on the value of land and restrict its future use.

“By lodging a deposit, the landowner is able to clearly demonstrate their intentions and prevent the accrual of new public rights.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government did not comment.