Skip to content

Calls to protect Common Land

July 5, 2013



NEWS RELEASE                                      



 The Open Spaces Society,(1) Britain’s oldest national conservation body, is calling for better protection for the unique common land of England and Wales.  The society’s general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, is speaking today (Friday) at a conference held at Newcastle University, Sustaining the Commons.

 Says Kate: ‘While the term ‘common’ is understood internationally to mean ‘shared resource’—whether land, sea, the air or even information—here in England and Wales we have the first, historic, commons.  These are the survivors of the Inclosure Movement, they are defined in law and are unique. 

 ‘Here, a common is land which has an owner but on which others have rights of grazing, or collecting wood, and the public has the right to walk on all of them and to ride on many.

 ‘Our commons have some protection in law, but they are being eroded by nibbling development and by neighbours filching bits for their gardens.  No one has a duty to act and the buck is passed.

 ‘Many suffer from lack of management which means they get lost under a sea of scrub.  Or people want to fence them to protect grazing stock from speeding traffic.  There are many dilemmas facing our commons.

 ‘We want to see communities being central to plans for managing the commons.  Often local people have grown up with the common, they act as a watchdog and know what’s going on there.  Managers of commons need to consult and involve the community in their plans for the common.

 ‘Unfortunately, the registers of commons, drawn up in the 1970s, are inaccurate and out of date.  The Westminster government passed legislation seven years ago (part 1 of the Commons Act 2006) to enable the registers to be updated, but it has still only implemented it in seven English counties and not at all in Wales.  There is much common land which was omitted during the original, short, registration period and which should be included on the registers, giving the public rights of access there.’

 ‘We want there to be a duty on local authorities to take enforcement action against unlawful encroachments on commons—at present no one has a duty to act and the buck is passed. 

 ‘We should also like to see a universal speed limit of 40mph on unfenced roads across commons, as exists on Dartmoor and in the New Forest.  We believe that drivers should respect the commons and slow down.

 ‘So here is our five-point plan to improve the lot of commons:


  • Governments to implement part 1 of the Commons Act 2006, to enable the common-land registers to be updated.


  • Local authorities to have a duty to take action against unlawful works on commons, as they do for obstructions on public paths.


  • A 40-mph speed limit on all unfenced roads across commons, to protect the livestock and the landscape.


  • True recognition by Westminster and Welsh governments of the multi-value of common land, so that all policies take account of commons.


  • Common-land managers always to involve the community in their plans for the common.’


Notes for editors

 1.         The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body.  It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them.


CONTACT:    Kate Ashbrook 

Kate Ashbrook

General Secretary

The Open Spaces Society

25a Bell Street

Henley-on-Thames RG9 2BA



The Open Spaces Society is a registered charity (no 1144840) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 7846516).



No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: