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Fight for our green spaces

June 9, 2014





The Open Spaces Society,(1) Britain’s oldest national conservation body, has published its manifesto for the 2015 Westminster election.  It is calling on politicians of all parties to support these policies.

Says Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary: ‘Good-quality paths and green spaces are vital to people’s well-being and they support the economy too.  So we are urging politicians to adopt policies which protect and promote commons, greens, other open spaces and public paths.’

 ‘In summary, we propose that everyone should have access to good-quality green space close to their home, and we suggest how this can be done.

‘We have called for a reversal of the damaging new law which makes it impossible to register land in England as a village green(2) where that land has been earmarked for development.

‘To ensure our public paths are properly protected and maintained, highway authorities must have sufficient funding to carry out their statutory duties and grants to landowners should be conditional on all public rights on their land being unobstructed.

‘Local authorities should have a duty to take action against unlawful works on common land(3) and there should be a 20-mph speed limit on all unfenced roads across commons, to preserve their open atmosphere while enabling them to be grazed.



The Open Spaces Society’s manifesto

 Green space close to home

 Every citizen should have access to good-quality public open space (usually green space) within five minutes’ walk of his or her home.  This can be provided by the following—


o   Clearly-defined criteria and a process for designating local green space, not just related to neighbourhood and local plans as at present; and support for communities seeking such spaces close to home.


o   A requirement to provide suitable alternative land before public open space is taken for another purpose;


o   Incentives for developers to provide areas of public open space through the planning system and support for local communities to acquire land for public open space.


Town and village greens


  • Where an application has been submitted for a town or village green, the land should be protected from development until the application has been determined, with an improved procedure for deciding applications.


  • Section 15C of the Commons Act 2006 should be amended or appealed.  This effectively prevents the registration of land as a green where ‘trigger events’ have occurred, even though the local inhabitants have had no opportunity to seek such registration.


Common land


  • County and unitary authorities should have a duty to take action against unlawful works on common land.


  • The whole of part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 should be implemented throughout England so that the registers are finally correct after 50 years.


  • There should be a speed limit of 20 mph maximum on all unfenced roads across commons, to enable stock to graze and people to roam in safety.


Public paths


  • Routes in regular use should be exempt from the 2026 deadline for claiming public paths, with a commitment to lift this deadline should the new procedures in the Deregulation Bill not prove effective in accelerating and simplifying claims.


  • Highway authorities must have sufficient funding to carry out their statutory duties on public paths, as an investment in people’s health and the local economy.


  • Grants to landowners should be conditional on all public rights of way on their land being unobstructed.



The manifesto is also on the Open Spaces Society’s website here.



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, throughout England and Wales.


2          Land can be registered as a town or village green if it has been used by local people for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ (ie informal recreation) for 20 years freely and openly.  The registration authority is the county or unitary council.  The legislation which protects greens from encroachment and development is section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 and section 29 of the Commons Act 1876.  Once land is registered as a green, local people have the right to enjoy it for informal recreation.


3          Common land exists throughout England and Wales.  It is land subject to rights of common, to graze animals or collect wood for instance, or waste land of the manor not subject to rights.  Under the Commons Registration Act 1965 all commons had to be registered during a three-year period and any that failed to be registered then ceased to be common.  However, part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 which is in the process of being implemented allows for some correction and updating of the registers.


Commons are protected from development because any works on commons require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (in England).  There is a public right to walk on all commons, and a right to ride on some, in particular those in former urban districts and those where the landowner has granted a deed of access which includes horse-riders.


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).


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