Owen Paterson, environ-ment secretary, said: “Town and village greens are cherished community spaces and it’s absolutely right they continue to have the strongest protection.

“Yet the system can be abused to stop developments like affordable housing from being built.

“We’re stamping down on the abuse of this law that can effectively shut local communities out of deciding what development is right for them. This Government has a vital mission to support growth and spread aspiration, and these new plans will help that to happen.”

The Open Spaces Society said there were about 185 applications for new village greens, in 2009, compared with about 400,000 planning applications.

The Friends of Walmersley Village (FOWV) has submitted an application to Bury Council which, if approved, would create Bury’s first village green at the open space at Springside Road adjacent to Christ Church Walmersley.

Steve Tilbrook, from FOWV, said: “The church wants to sell the field for develop-ment. If it’s lost, it’s going to change the character of the village. It has been the heart of the village for 100 years.”

In July 2011, plans for a new building for Clarendon Primary School, Clarendon Street, Great Lever, were halted after an application was submitted to grant the land earmarked for develop-ment village green status. But the scheme was given the go-ahead in October.