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Mixed decisions on Hackney Marshes developments

We are pleased that plans by the London Borough of Hackney to site a car-park on Hackney Marshes (East) have been refused, but concerned that a pavilion and car-park on Hackney Marshes (North) have been allowed. The Planning Inspectorate has determined applications for these works on common land, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, following a public inquiry in June. The objectors to both applications included the Open Spaces Society, the Hackney Marshes User Group, the New Lammas Lands Defence Committee, the Save Lea Marshes Group, Sustainable Hackney and other organisations, as well as local residents. The inspector, Susan Doran, has decided that the East Marsh car-park would harm the landscape and public …read more

Refusal of access track across historic Cumbrian common

We are delighted that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has refused to allow an access track to be driven across ancient common land at Newbiggin, near Penrith in Cumbria. The common is known as Public Watering Place and has a number of springs with a series of ancient stone troughs and culverts. The common was featured in the Friends of the Lake District’s Our Green Space project and was a runner-up for the Open Spaces Society’s 2012 open space award. Thomas Armstrong (Construction) Ltd wants to build affordable housing adjacent to the common and applied to the environment secretary, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, for an access track across the common. The …read more

We join forces with the High Wycombe Society for a celebratory Big Picnic on Wycombe Rye

OSS and the High Wycombe Society are jointly celebrating an important anniversary with a Big Picnic on Wycombe Rye on Sunday 9 August. It is 50 years since the Rye Protection Society, with help from the Open Spaces Society, saved The Rye from a road scheme. The event is free and open to all, from 12 noon to 4 pm. There will be a jester and circus-skills workshop, morris dancing, yoga classes and river trails, with exhibitions and displays at Pann Mill. The mill will be open to visitors and there will be information available within the grounds. The event will also mark the 50 years since The Rye was saved from a road scheme, in 1965. Says Jackie Kay, …read more

What’s best in Britain?

The World At One (BBC Radio 4) is 50 this year and has invited people to offer suggestions for where Britain is best.  We have sent in our idea: common land.  This is what we wrote. Common land goes back to before medieval times when land was shared and people lived off the land; then much of England and Wales was common, what now remains is a vestige of the original commons.  They are all owned but others have rights there, to graze animals, collect wood or furze, or dig peat for instance.  They occupy all landscapes and habitats from the moors of the North Pennines and mid Wales to the Norfolk coast and Surrey heaths.  They have remained undisturbed …read more

Counting our battle honours

150 years ago on Sunday (19 July) at a meeting in a lawyer’s chambers in London, our organisation was launched: Britain’s oldest national conservation body.  Without the society countless commons, green spaces and public paths would have been lost for ever. And there would be no National Trust, since it was the society’s founders who formed the National Trust in 1895, thirty years after the society’s own foundation in 1865. The society is famous for having saved Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common and other London open spaces in the mid-nineteenth century.  In fact it has campaigned tirelessly throughout England and Wales.  A selection of a few of the cases in which the society has been involved is set out below. Says …read more

We are delighted that Bodmin Moor is to have a Commons Council

The society is delighted that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has resolved to set up a commons council backing a plan to create a commons council for Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. There was a public consultation in March and April, and the environment secretary had to be satisfied that there was ‘substantial support’ for the plan. In fact, there was an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, with 195 out of 202 respondents in favour (96 per cent). This will be the second commons council created under the Commons Act 2006 in England—the first was established for the Brendon Hills in Devon in April 2014. The council will provide a democratic management structure for the 71 commons registration …read more

Wycombe Rye rescue a milestone in the Open Spaces Society’s 150-year history

‘We saved the incomparable Wycombe Rye 50 years ago through joint local and national effort,’ said Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary. Kate was giving a talk to the High Wycombe Society on 15 July. Says Kate: ‘In 1964 the secretary of the newly-formed Wycombe Rye Protection Society, forerunner of the High Wycombe Society, wrote to the national Open Spaces Society, asking for support in fighting the proposed inner relief road which was to be built across the Rye. ‘Together we campaigned, in parliament, to stop the road in its tracks. We won in June 1965 and today the Rye is as lovely, open and free as ever. ‘This is a fine example of national and local bodies working together, with …read more

Private garage refused on Cornwall common

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected an application from Mr Robert George to build a domestic garage on registered common land at Carnkie, Wendron, near Helston in Cornwall. We were the sole objector to the application. The inspector, Mr Richard Holland, ruled that ‘the proposed garage, which is for wholly private benefit, will unacceptably interfere with the public’s right to access the whole of the common; this objection is decisive’. He added: ‘The proposed garage will also harm the interests of anyone wishing to exercise their right to graze and take produce from the common should they wish to do so.’ We are pleased that the inspector has upheld the public interest. We have the right to enjoy this common, and …read more

Our AGM marks ups and downs for green spaces

‘The Open Spaces Society has never been more needed in its 150-year history than today, as green spaces are increasingly threatened.’  So declared our vice-president, open spaces expert Paul Clayden, at our annual general meeting today (9 July). ‘The society played a significant role in rescuing Welsh village greens from the damaging law which has prevented their registration in England.  Whereas in England, the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 bans local people from applying to register a new green if the land is threatened with development, in Wales this is only the case where planning permission has been granted.  The Welsh Government’s original plan was to copy England so this change, enshrined in the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, is a major achievement …read more

South Wales commons saved from industrial development

We are overjoyed that the Welsh Government has rejected applications by RWE Innogy Ltd to erect wind-turbines and other structures on Mynydd y Gwair and adjoining commons, eight miles north of Swansea.  The decision follows a public inquiry last year. The developers wanted to erect 16 wind turbines, an access track, electricity transformers, crane hard-standings, construction compound, anemometer and other structures on the commons and had been given planning permission by Swansea Council.  Because the proposal would have taken common land, they had in addition to win the consent of the Welsh Government for works on common land (under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006) and exchange of common land (under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006).  These …read more

Commercial camping development on national park common is rejected

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected an application from Woodland Property Services to erect 10 camping pods (wooden cabins on post-mounted bases) on Blawith Common in the Lake District National Park. The society, with the Friends of the Lake District, the Lake District National Park Authority, Blawith and Subberthwaite Parish Council, Blawith and Subberthwaite Commoners’ Association and Natural England, opposed the application for works on common land, which is near Ulverston in Cumbria. The inspector, Mr Richard Holland, ruled that the development would ‘unacceptably harm the interests of the graziers and the natural beauty of the national park, and hinder the public’s access over, and its enjoyment of, the common’. He therefore rejected the application. It was clear that the application …read more

We condemn drive for ‘self-funding countryside estate’ in Surrey

We have condemned the cuts to national and local government services for countryside and public enjoyment. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of the Surrey branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) on 3 July. Kate was particularly critical of Surrey County Council’s intention to make its countryside estate ‘self funding’ by 2021 (Surrey County Council paper to cabinet, 16 December 2014, ‘The agreement with Surrey Wildlife Trust for the management of the county council’s countryside estate’). Said Kate: ‘Surrey has a countryside to be proud of. It has many areas of registered common land, the third most commons of any English county (over 400), and much public open space, …read more

North York Moors National Park authority approves York Potash application

We are dismayed that the North York Moors National Park Authority has approved the York Potash application. The decision was made at a special planning meeting on 30 June, and was extremely close: eight votes to seven. We backed the Campaign for National Parks (CNP) in fighting the project. Ruth Bradshaw, CNP’s policy and campaigns manager, at the Campaign for National Parks said: ‘We are really disappointed that the national park authority members have approved the construction of the world’s largest potash mine in the North York Moors. We have long maintained that this project is completely incompatible with national park purposes and that the promised economic benefits could never justify the huge damage that it would do to the …read more

Withdrawal of Stevenage common enclosure plans

Stevenage Borough Council has heeded our advice and has withdrawn its application to fence off part of Norton Green Common. The common is on the south-west side of Stevenage in Hertfordshire, immediately to the west of the A1(M). The council had applied to the Secretary of State for Environment for consent to erect a fence on the common to enable it to be grazed for nature-conservation reasons. The society objected because the fence, on the southern part of Norton Green Common would restrict public access, interfering with the public’s rights to walk and ride there. It would be a physical and psychological barrier, spoiling people’s enjoyment of the land. The society complained that the council had failed to consult interested …read more

Wind turbines rejected on Rooley Moor, Rochdale

Rochdale Borough Council has refused planning permission to Coronation Power Ltd for 12 wind turbines and other infrastructure on Rooley Moor. The council rejected the application on a number of grounds. It considered that the development would be inappropriate in the green belt and it would have a detrimental impact on the wild and tranquil landscape character of Rooley Moor, and on the amenity of users of the public rights of way in the vicinity. This is an excellent result. The development was proposed on common land where walkers and horse-riders have rights of free access and can enjoy the expansive views. The turbines would have been a severe blot on the landscape. It is a relief that the council …read more

Land at Breaky Bottom open to the public

After a long battle by Action for Access and the Open Spaces Society, walkers can now use some of the Access Land (1) at Breaky Bottom, near Lewes. A new stile has been erected. The grid reference is TQ404054 (2). Our local correspondent Chris Smith says “The new access land is a great place to take a break and enjoy the view while walking (3) from Northease to Saltdean.” The public access area is shown in yellow/brown on the map below. But the area shown in red is still closed to the public. This is because there is a small pit on the site. The South Downs National Park says that this is dangerous, even though there are many cliffs …read more

We support fight against massive potash mine in North York Moors National Park

The Open Spaces Society has joined with 28 other environment and amenity organisations, including the Campaign for National Parks (CNP), in strongly urging the North Yorks Moors National Park Authority to refuse an application for a massive potash mine inside the North York Moors National Park. CNP, with our support, has sent the following open letter to members of the National Park Authority. To all Members of the North York Moors National Park Authority Next week, you will be considering one of the most important decisions affecting National Parks in recent times. On Tuesday you will decide whether to allow York Potash Ltd (YPL) to build the world’s largest potash mine on a site well inside the National Park. Not …read more

Good news for fighters against Reeves Hill wind turbines

We are delighted that the planning permission has expired for four wind-turbines on the prominent Herefordshire summit of Reeves Hill, close to the Powys border. The landowner, Sir Simon Gourlay made a start to the development on the very last day of his permission. Now Herefordshire Council says his last-minute information was not good enough to discharge the planning conditions so the start was unlawful and permission has lapsed. We had joined the Stonewall Hill Conservation Group in opposing the turbines which would not only be an eyesore in a lovely, wild landscape close to the Offa’s Dyke National Trail, but would also require the construction of a new access on quiet lanes. This is a serious setback for the …read more

The Big Pathwatch

This summer, with funding from the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, the Ramblers are launching a survey of all the public paths in England and Wales as shown on Ordnance Survey maps. The Big Pathwatch will launch on Monday 13 July and the Ramblers will be providing a handy new, free app for your phone so you can tell them what you find. Anyone can take part. You just need to register for a one-kilometre square and walk all the paths shown on the OS map. You can then report what you find – good or bad – to the Ramblers using the app. The Ramblers will use the results to assess the state of the network and to come up …read more

How to defend the commons

We are delighted to help with a new, online course—Defending the Commons: Strategies for Action. The course will be run by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at Gloucestershire University and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico.  It is the second in a series of online short courses focusing on different aspects of global commons in the widest sense—land, air, water, forests, fisheries, the internet.  It will teach those defending the commons how to devise and run a campaign.  Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook, who has practical experience of campaigning, is one of the tutors. The course will run from 28 September to 20 November 2015 and costs £100.  Details are here.

OSS signs up to Access to Justice statement

The UK’s four umbrella conservation groups – Wildife & Countryside Link, Scottish Environment Link, Wales Environment Link and Northern Ireland Environment Link – will present a statement to the Aarhus Convention* on 16 June calling for better access to environmental justice. The Open Spaces Society has been pleased to sign in support of this statement. The ENDS Report (Intelligence for Environmental Professionals) has published further details in this article. *UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, usually known as the Aarhus Convention.

Welsh village greens rescued from damaging law-change

We are delighted to have helped stop the Planning (Wales) Act from making devastating changes to village-green law. The Planning (Wales) Act, which was finalised yesterday (19 May), was amended during its passage through the Welsh Assembly, thanks to the society’s campaign.  Assembly Members reversed several draconian measures which would have severely restricted the public’s opportunity to make applications for town and village greens and made countless green spaces vulnerable to development. Local people can apply to register land which they have used for informal recreation for 20 years without interruption, challenge or permission.  Once registered, the land is protected from development. When it was first introduced, the Planning (Wales) Bill copied England’s Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.  This made …read more

Henley RBL learns about Open Spaces Society

‘The national Open Spaces Society has plenty to keep it busy here in Henley-on-Thames,’ said the society’s case officer, Nicola Hodgson, speaking at a lunch organised by the Henley & Peppard Branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL). Founded in 1865, the society celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Nicola told the RBL how the society has campaigned tirelessly for common land, town and village greens, open spaces and public paths, starting with saving the London commons in the mid-nineteenth century. Says Nicola: ‘After its London launch the society soon branched out into all parts of England and Wales, and extended its range of interests. ‘The society was instrumental in preserving the Nettlebed Commons, through the Nettlebed and District Commons …read more

Lake District park authority rejects second attempt to develop White Moss common

We are delighted that the Lake District National Park Authority has once again rejected plans for the development of White Moss, on the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere in Cumbria. Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale who is custodian of the family’s estate, had applied to develop common land at White Moss, where the public has rights to walk and ride. This followed the rejection of a similar scheme last November. The plan included the development of commercial visitor facilities with a car-park, an ugly ‘Welcome Hub’, bike hire and events. The park authority rejected the plan on the grounds that it conflicted with a number of national park policies and the building ‘would cause harm …read more

Land at Breaky Bottom open to the public after OSS action

Action by the society’s Local Correspondent, Chris Smith, has resulted in more land at Breaky Bottom Vineyard, Sussex being opened to the public. The society objected to an order which would have continued the restriction. As a result part of the land has been made available for public access. The public access area is shown in yellow/brown on the map below. But the area shown in red is still closed to the public. This is because there is a small pit on the site. The South Downs National Park says that this is dangerous, even though there are many cliffs and pits in the area where there is public access. They say that they will reinstate access if the landowner …read more

We object to ugly tower above Shepherd’s Bush Common

We have objected to an application from Dorsett Hospitality International to demolish the existing former Walkabout building and replace it with a 16-storey tower, next to Shepherd’s Bush Common in west London. We consider that this ugly tower would dominate the green space of Shepherd’s Bush. It would have an overpowering and unpleasant influence on people’s quiet enjoyment of this vital green lung. We have urged Hammersmith and Fulham Council to reject it.

We fight access track across historic common

We have objected to plans for an access track across common land at Newbiggin, near Penrith in Cumbria. The common is known as ‘public watering place’ and has a number of springs with a series of ancient stone troughs and culverts. The common was featured in the Friends of the Lake District’s Our Green Space project which was also a runner-up for our 2012 Open Space Award. Thomas Armstrong (Construction) Ltd wants to build affordable housing adjacent to the common and has applied for an access track across the common. The housing does not have planning consent, nor is the site allocated in the Eden Local Plan. We object most strongly to this proposed degradation of the common. It is …read more

We celebrate the partial opening of Panshanger Park

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, spoke at a walk to celebrate the first anniversary of the public opening of one-third of historic Panshanger Park. Read about the day and listen to Kate’s speech here. 26 March 2015 – We call for swift opening of long overdue Panshanger Park We are joining our member, the Friends of Panshanger Park, on Tuesday 31 March for a walk to celebrate the first anniversary of the public opening of one-third of the historic Panshanger Country Park in Hertfordshire. Panshanger Park, between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City, is the subject of a legal agreement which allowed the owner, Lafarge Tarmac, to take minerals in exchange for the creation of a country park within the grade …read more

New book to celebrate our commons

We have published a new book, Common Land, to celebrate the ancient common land of England and Wales. It is written by our chairman Graham Bathe. Says Graham: ‘Most of us are familiar with commons. We may have played on them when young and visit them with our own children. Commons are woven into our culture and are of great beauty and grandeur. They are relics of the magnificent landscapes that once covered much of the countryside. They stretch back into history, to the very dawn of farming itself. ‘Now commons provide many opportunities for enjoyment, and because they extend from cities like London and Newcastle to the great moors of the Brecon Beacons, Lake District and Dartmoor, nobody is …read more

Unfair land swap on Cornish common

We have objected to plans to swap common land at Pendarves Woods Common, a mile south-west of Camborne in Cornwall. Earlier this year Mr Robert Weedon applied to the Secretary of State for Environment for retrospective consent for works on common land: part of a sand-school, parking areas and track, fuel pumps and tank, and post-and-rail fencing. The works had been constructed over a period since 2008. The society and others objected and he withdrew the application and instead applied to offer some land in exchange for the common which has been unlawfully developed. The society has objected to the new application because the proposed replacement land is inferior to that to be taken. The matter is determined by the …read more

Now you can walk the secret multi-million pound footpaths of Firle

But you will need your wellies on! Open Spaces Society member Chris Smith has created a walk highlighting the secret multi-million pound footpaths of Firle. You can find it on-line here. The Firle Estate, near Lewes in East Sussex, contains some of the most iconic walking landscape in the country, including the Firle Beacon stretch of the South Downs Way. There are many legal rights of way and areas of statutory public access, but, as many landlowners will ruefully tell you, you don’t get money for that. So it might surprise you to learn that the Estate has obtained exemption from inheritance tax (1) on nearly all the estate which would otherwise be subject to inheritance tax (2) in return …read more

The fight against massive potash-mine in North York Moors National Park

We have objected strongly to the application from York Potash Ltd to open a massive potash-mine within the North York Moors National Park. The mine is planned to be the largest in the world. The site for the mine head is at Sneaton, three miles south of Whitby, in the north-east part of the park. In addition there is the mineral transport system and a tunnel which requires three shafts, one of them in the national park, so the devastation will be widespread. The mine head is in a pleasant, wooded area close to the popular long-distance Coast to Coast trail between St Bees in Cumbria and Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. The society has sent an …read more

We object to abuse of St John’s Lye common, Woking

We have responded angrily to Woking Borough Council’s consultation about car-parking on St John’s Lye Common, south-west Woking, Surrey. Local residents had complained about the inadequate parking after the opening of the new St John’s memorial hall and the council proposed to provide car-parking spaces on the common. The options are for the extension onto the common of the existing car-park to take an additional 22 cars, or an informal parking area for 28 cars on the common a bit further away. We are dismayed that both options take common land. The council has not troubled to find a solution which avoids the common. We consider this to be an abuse of common land, which is for public recreation and …read more

We welcome proposed commons council for Bodmin Moor

The society is backing a plan to create a commons council for Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. This would be the second commons council created under the Commons Act 2006—the first was established for the Brendon Hills in Devon in April 2014. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting on whether to establish the Bodmin Moor Commons Council and will only do so if there is substantial support for it. The council will provide a democratic management structure for the 71 commons registration units on Bodmin Moor. It will authorise those with rights of common to take majority decisions on agricultural matters. This will enable the commons to benefit from environmental stewardship payments. The model for …read more

We say ‘no’ to the Lowthers

The society has once again objected to renewed plans by the Lowther Estate to develop White Moss Common next to the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere in the Lake District National Park. Last year the estate applied for a visitor centre and hierarchy of routes at the existing car-park but the Lake District National Park Authority’s members rejected the plans, overturning the advice of their officers. Now, Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale who is custodian of the family’s 117-square-mile estate, is trying again to win this development. Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, says: ‘This application is very similar to the one which was rejected by the authority last November. It is still proposed to take …read more

Historic Gloucestershire field is saved as a village green

We are delighted that our member, the Nympsfield Village Green Action Group, has succeeded in registering The Leaze in Nympsfield, six miles south-west of Stroud in Gloucestershire, as a village green. Mr Ian Crossland of the group applied to Gloucestershire County Council, the greens registration authority, to register The Leaze in 2009. At that time the landowner, the Gloucester Diocese Board of Finance, had made a submission to Stroud District Council that it be allocated for housing development. The action group was able to demonstrate that the historic field had been used for recreation for at least 20 years. Says Ian Crossland: ‘We are delighted that The Leaze has been formally recognised as a village green. With great support from …read more

Chunks of the Lake District National Park to be sold

Update, 16 March 2015 Bidding closed on 12 March and the Lake District National Park Authority has published an update on its website. It reports that: We have identified new future owners for two properties (Longbridge, Portinscale and Lady Wood, White Moss) We are in discussions with a charitable body for one property (Blea Brows) We have not managed to find a suitable new owner for the five remaining properties, including Stickle Tarn. It seems that the park authority has listened to the objections from the OSS, Friends of the Lake District and local communities and have been particular about who should buy the properties, but we believe that it should not have rushed into these sales, and we fear …read more

New tool-kit to save open spaces

We have launched our campaign to save England’s much-loved open spaces. We have published an open spaces tool-kit for communities to protect their green spaces, and have called on planning authorities to respond positively to requests to save local spaces. Our tool-kit consists of three handbooks: How to win local green space through neighbourhood plans; Community assets and protecting open space; and Local green space designation. We have written to all the English local planning authorities calling on them to be proactive in designating land as local green space (LGS) through neighbourhood plans. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘The National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] has been in place for three years, with its opportunity to designate land as LGS …read more

We call on landowner to stop destroying Anglesey common

We have called on Mrs Dilys Lowe, the owner of land at Glandwr Cottage, Glanrafon, Llangoed in Anglesey, to stop building a bungalow on registered common land. Mrs Lowe has planning permission for the bungalow but has been told by Anglesey County Council and others that the work is unlawful unless she obtains the consent from the Welsh Minister for works on common land under the Commons Act 2006. Mrs Lowe is apparently ignoring the advice and has sent in the diggers to start laying foundations for her new house. We have written to Mrs Lowe calling on her to halt the work forthwith. Says Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary: ‘Common land is an immensely important part of our …read more

A black day for greens

We are devastated that the supreme court has today rejected the rights of local people to register West Beach at Newhaven in East Sussex as a village green. Five judges in the supreme court have upheld the appeal of Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) Limited, overturning the decision in the court of appeal in March 2013 which said that the land could be registered as a village green.  Local people have enjoyed Newhaven Beach for walking, fishing, swimming and other activities for generations. We backed our member Newhaven Town Council in its court action to defend Newhaven Beach. The supreme court considered three issues, whether (1) local people had enjoyed an implied licence to use the land, (2) by-laws had permitted …read more

The fight to stop green-belt solar farm

We are backing our member, the Mawdesley and Heskin Solar Farm Protest Group, in its fight against a solar farm in the Lancashire countryside. We are objecting to plans from M S Power Projects Ltd (MSP) for a solar farm on green belt land at Heskin, about a mile south of the town of Eccleston. The solar panels will occupy 60 acres (the equivalent of 34 football pitches) and will interfere with public footpaths. They will also be a blot in an attractive area of green belt. Peaceful farmland will become an industrial site. This is an attractive area criss-crossed by public paths. These are valuable routes taking people between the villages and out into wider countryside. The panels will …read more

Thames Path to be consigned to a rat run in Maidenhead

We are angry that the Thames Path National Trail is to follow Maidenhead’s Ray Mead Road rat run. On Wednesday 11 February Windsor and Maidenhead Borough’s planning committee approved the creation of a short footpath along Ray Mead Road instead of a riverside route for the Thames Path National Trail. The council had applied to create a footway along Ray Mead Road, extending an existing footpath by about 17 metres with a maximum width of 1.5 metres. The Open Spaces Society and Ramblers objected, along with other organisations and residents. This decision massively sets back the cause of getting a riverside route for the Thames Path National Trail. Walkers on the Thames Path are currently forced away from the river …read more

Lake District fencing plan conflicts with special Act of Parliament

We believe that plans by United Utilities for 10 kilometres of fencing above Thirlmere in the heart of the Lake District National Park conflict with a special law for the area. Because the land is common, UU has applied for consent to the Planning Inspectorate for works on common land. The society believes that the fencing, if erected, could be unlawful, even if the Planning Inspectorate gives approval. The society won clauses in the 1879 Manchester Corporation Waterworks Act which give the public the right of access over these fells, and state that the access ‘shall not be in any manner restricted or interfered with by the Corporation [now UU].’ Says Kate Ashbrook, our society’s general secretary: ‘Back in 1878 …read more

We fight land swap for Beverley’s ancient common

We have objected to plans by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to swap land on Beverley Westwood Common for a site at Fishwick Mill, to the eastern border of the common. Because commons are special, the law (section 16 of the Commons Act 2006) requires that suitable exchange land is provided when a common is taken for another purpose. In this case the council wants to construct a footway and cycletrack on the common. In offering substitute land the council must take account of the interests of the neighbourhood and the public interest. We do not consider that these interests have been met. The replacement land is already open to the public and has for decades been used and …read more

Retrospective application for works on Cornish common

We have objected to a retrospective application for works on Pendarves Woods Common, a mile south-west of Camborne in Cornwall. The application from Mr Robert Weedon is for part of a sand-school, parking areas and track, fuel pumps and tank, and post-and-rail fencing. The works were constructed over a period since 2008. Before anyone can erect a work on common land, he or she must get the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment. For works which are in the public interest the application is made under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, for those in the private interest the applicant must provide land in exchange using section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. Mr Weedon has applied …read more

Welsh Committee calls for better protection for village greens in Planning Bill

We are delighted that a National Assembly for Wales Committee is calling for better protection of village greens. The report of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, which is scrutinising the Planning (Wales) Bill, states that ‘the provisions of the Bill in relation to town and village greens, as currently drafted, have caused us some concern’. The Bill contains draconian measures to make it much more difficult for local people to register their much-loved green spaces as town or village greens. Local people can apply to register land which they have used for informal recreation for 20 years without interruption, challenge or permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development. The committee recommends that the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl …read more

Plaque in memory of Pat Wilson

Meopham and District Footpaths Group in Kent have erected a plaque in memory of their president and our vice-president Pat Wilson. The plaque is at Scratch Arse Corner (GR TQ 653 645), near Chandler’s Hill, site of a path battle which led to the origin of the Meopham group. An early fight, championed by Pat, was to reopen the heavily obstructed footpath here in the 1960s. This resulted in the formation of the group to survey and defend all the paths in and around the parish. It is thanks to their efforts that the paths are today in good order. There is also a kissing-gate in memory of Pat which replaces a stile on the footpath which she walked many …read more

Common landscapes

Today a taskgroup of 27 organisations launches its report Landscapes for Everyone (see below) in parliament, calling on politicians to champion our unique British landscapes. We shall be there. Our special message is that we must look after the 2,212 square miles of common land in England and Wales. Do this and we secure a vast range of landscapes and wildlife habitats, we embrace history and culture, and we ensure that the public has places to walk and ride in peace and tranquillity. Our commons come in all shapes, sizes and landtypes — from the moors of Dartmoor to the Lake District fells, from the Norfolk coast to the Chiltern chalklands, from Snowdonia’s mountains to the Glamorgan shore. Even lakes …read more

Welsh Assembly debates Circuit of Wales

We have sent a briefing to Antoinette Sandbach, shadow Welsh environment minister and Assembly Member for North Wales, who is leading a short debate in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday 21 January about the controversial Circuit of Wales motorsports development at Rassau in Blaenau Gwent.  The debate is called Giving the Circuit of Wales the red flag—outlining the concerns around the Circuit of Wales project. We oppose the development because of its adverse effect on the landscape and people’s enjoyment of it, and on registered common land, Trefil Las and Twyn Bryn-March Common.  We are also concerned about the lack of transparency relating to its effect on the environment.  The common is right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons …read more

Thomas Hardy would breathe a sigh of relief

We are delighted that Kingston Maurward College has withdrawn its plans to build 70 houses on parkland at Thomas Hardy’s hamlet of Lower Bockhampton, Dorset. Hardy was born at nearby Higher Bockhampton in 1840. The society was among hundreds of objectors to the development, including the Ramblers, the Thomas Hardy Society and the Lower Bockhampton Action Group. Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘Thomas Hardy would have breathed a sigh of relief at this news. The proposed houses would have devastated this tiny hamlet and its lovely surroundings, and spoiled people’s enjoyment of the public-path network. ‘We trust that this is the end of the matter and that the college has learnt that any development here …read more

Pressure groups fight fencing plan in Lake District’s wilderness

We are backing our member the Friends of the Lake District in fighting a plan by United Utilities to erect fencing on common land in the heart of the Lake District National Park. United Utilities has applied to erect nearly ten kilometres of new fencing at the South Western end of Thirlmere, enclosing 866 hectares (more than three square miles) of wild fellside. It would run along the boundary of Whelpside, Steel End, West Head, Armboth, Bleaberry and Wythburn Fells Common. UU claims that it needs to reduce stock grazing to reduce the amount of eroded vegetation being washed into watercourses. We strongly object to this intrusion into this wild, unspoilt landscape of the Lake District National Park. Not only …read more

New call for Thames Path riverside route

We have objected to a planning application from Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council to create a short footpath along Ray Mead Road, Maidenhead, instead of a riverside route for the Thames Path National Trail. The council has applied to create a footway along Ray Mead Road, extending an existing footpath by about 17 metres with a maximum width of 1.5 metres. While the application is seemingly innocuous it would have a devastating effect on the future of the Thames Path National Trail. At present the Thames Path is forced away from the river by the properties at Bridge View. The goal, for the council, Natural England and user and amenity groups, is to provide a riverside route all the way. …read more

Footpath in Godstone, Surrey, has been saved

A planning inspector has ruled that a footpath at Godstone, Surrey, will not be moved. The footpath, Godstone 140B, runs from Harts Lane north-east to the A22 Eastbourne Road, close to Harts Lane Cottage. The owner of the cottage wished to divert the route so that instead it avoided the cottage and joined Harts Lane at a point 190 metres to the east of the existing junction. Surrey County Council made the official order but there were objections so that the matter had to be referred to the Planning Inspectorate for determination. There was a hearing on 4 December and on 17 December the inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, issued her decision to reject the plan. We objected, along with Godstone …read more

Wycombe Council rejects plans which threatened common and bridleway

Wycombe District Council has rejected a planning application from Bramley Homes which threatened Booker Common and a public bridleway. The application was for two houses on land next to the former Live and Let Live pub at Booker Common, High Wycombe, Bucks. The society was concerned that the development would have an adverse effect on the adjoining common and public bridleway. The developers did not even acknowledge that the houses would be right next to the common and a public path enjoyed by walkers, riders and cyclists. They would have been inconvenienced and endangered by the construction vehicles. This land is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and popular for quiet recreation. The development would have conflicted with …read more

Doors open to rescue lost commons in Cumbria and North Yorkshire

On 15 December, for the first time in 45 years, the public can win lost commons in Cumbria and North Yorkshire and gain rights to walk, and possibly ride, on them.  This could lead to a significant new area of land for public enjoyment. Cumbria and North Yorkshire are to be added to the list of seven pioneer areas* in England where commons can be put back on the register, under part 1 of the Commons Act 2006. The Commons Registration Act 1965 required all commons to be registered but only allowed three years for this to be done.  In 1970 the registers closed and commons which were left off ceased to be common land in law.  Now in some parts …read more

Speak up for commons, open spaces and footpaths in East Sussex

The Open Spaces Society is urging everyone who walks, rides or cycles on the commons, open spaces and footpaths of East Sussex to tell East Sussex County Council how important those facilities are to them. The council is conducting a survey of usage of these facilities. You can find it on the consultations page of the East Sussex County Council website here. Open Spaces Society local correspondent for Wealden, Brendan Clegg says “The survey questions are a little confused but this is an excellent opportunity for people in East Sussex to tell their council about how vital open spaces and footpaths are. We urge people to use the comments sections in the questions to tell the council how important it …read more

Shropshire beauty-spot under siege

The society has objected to proposed development on the slopes of the dramatic Caer Caradoc, near Church Stretton in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The plans, from Morris Property, are for 85 dwellings and 16 holiday units, sprawled over fields immediately to the south-west of Caer Caradoc and east of Church Stretton. Says Harry Scott, our local correspondent for Shropshire: ‘We are appalled by this proposal which will spoil the splendid approach to Caer Caradoc for ever. The views from the surrounding hills will also be ruined. It will be visible from as far away as the Long Mynd on the other side of the valley. ‘Church Stretton is a tourist hub as well as an accredited …read more

Commons and the Law training workshop from the Chilterns Commons Project

‘Commons are the jewels of the Chilterns,’ declares Nicola Hodgson, our case officer, who is today giving presentations at a workshop at Naphill, Bucks, on the range of legislation which affects common land. The training workshop, Commons and the Law, is part of the Chilterns Commons Project and is for all those involved with the management of commons, including site managers, landowners, parish councils and volunteers from local groups. The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has around 200 commons ranging from strips of grass verge to rolling hectares of wild, flower-rich grassland and woodland. Says Nicola: ‘Common-land law is complex and I welcome the opportunity to help those managing commons to gain a better understanding of the legislation. I …read more

Thomas Hardy would turn in his grave

We have objected to plans by Kingston Maurward College to build 70 houses on parkland at Thomas Hardy’s hamlet of Lower Bockhampton, Dorset. Hardy was born at nearby Higher Bockhampton in 1840. The society has written to West Dorset District Council pointing out that the development would have a devastating effect on the beautiful village and its surroundings. The houses would be within the conservation area and on registered parkland. They would destroy people’s enjoyment of the public paths in the area, being visible from a number of popular routes, such as the historic path alongside the River Frome. Moreover, says the society, the houses would generate significant additional traffic on the narrow lanes which are used not only by …read more

We back Dereham Town Council’s action to protect Norfolk common

We have congratulated Dereham Town Council in Norfolk for its robust action in defence of the lovely Badley Moor Common. The council has written to the landowner, Mr Anema, asking him to open up the blocked access to the common. The gate leading to the common has been locked for more than three years and the adjacent stile has been removed. The public has the legal right to walk and ride over the common and this lawful access has been denied by the landowner’s actions. We have written to Dereham Town Council to congratulate it for taking up this crusade in the public interest. Landowners must not be allowed to get away with such unpleasant and unlawful actions, and it …read more

We call for reopening of access to Castle Cove Beach, Weymouth

We are backing our member, the Friends of Castle Cove Beach, in its campaign to reopen the blocked access to this lovely beach at Weymouth in Dorset. The society has written to the Chief Executives of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and Dorset County Council expressing ‘deep concern’ about developments at the beach. The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 designated Castle Cove beach for public access. The access came into being on 29 June 2012, yet the only footpath to the beach was closed in March 2013 and the beach steps were removed. In our letters we wrote: ‘The closure of the footpath leading to the beach means that this ground-breaking scheme — of giving people statutory access to …read more

Campaigners condemn common-land swap for motorsport development

We have joined the Brecon Beacons Park Society and Gwent Wildlife Trust in condemning the Heads of the Valleys Development Company’s proposed land swap to enable it to build the Circuit of Wales motorsports development.  We are among those who have sent strong objections to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). Because the development would take more than 248 hectares (one square mile) of common land,(4) the developers must provide suitable land in exchange.  They must then obtain the consent of Welsh ministers, via PINS, for that land to be registered as a common.  The exchange land would carry the same rights as the existing common. In deciding the application (under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006), PINS must have regard, among …read more

We defend village greens in Welsh Government inquiry

We have spoken out in defence of village greens in Wales which, we say, are essential to the health and well-being of the Welsh population. We have sent evidence to the Welsh Environment and Sustainability Committee which is inquiring into the principles of the Planning (Wales) Bill. We are concerned that the Welsh Government proposes to prevent people from registering land as a village green where it is threatened with development. In our evidence we robustly defend the current system which allows local people, where they have used land for 20 years for recreation, to register it as a town or village green. Once registered the land is protected from development. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘The proposals in …read more

Lake District Park Authority rejects ‘Legoland’ development at White Moss

The Lake District National Park Authority’s Development Control Committee today rejected plans for the development of White Moss. Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale who is custodian of the family’s estate, had applied to develop common land at White Moss on the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere. The committee members, by 12 votes to 2, refused permission, overturning the recommendation of planning officers to approve the development. Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘We are highly relieved that committee members upheld national park principles and recognised the damage that this money-making scheme would cause.  Jim Lowther wanted to create a new “welcome hub” offering food drink and various retail outlets, improve the car-park and make defined …read more

We fight devastation of Radnorshire’s jewel

We have objected to two applications from Hendy Wind Farm Ltd to devastate Llandegley Rhos Common for a wind-farm on adjoining land. The company wants to build seven wind-turbines on land to the west of the common, obliterating the view to the striking Llandegley Rocks, five miles east of Llandrindod Wells. Because it intends to create access-tracks for heavy construction-vehicles across the common, the company needs the consent of the Welsh Government for works on, and exchange of, common land, in addition to planning permission. Llandegley Rhos Common is a jewel in the crown of Radnorshire. It should be retained as an entity, for its beauty, landscape qualities and wildlife habitats and for public enjoyment. Instead it could become an …read more

Peer’s development plan threatens Lake District World Heritage status

Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale, who is custodian of the family’s 117-square-mile estate, is planning to develop common land at White Moss on the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere at the heart of the poet Wordsworth’s countryside.  The Lowther estate stretches across Cumbria from Penrith to the Howgill fells—some of the most beautiful and inspiring scenery in Britain. The scheme has been recommended by the Lake District National Park’s planning officers and will come before the park’s Development Control Committee on Wednesday 5 November. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, says: ‘This grandiose money-making scheme for improved car parks, strategically planned and defined tracks and trails centred on a new “welcome hub” offering food drink and …read more

Newhaven Beach: landmark case for village greens to be heard in Supreme Court

The landmark case for the registration of land as a village green, at West Beach, Newhaven, East Sussex, is set to be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday and Tuesday next week (3-4 November). We are backing our member, Newhaven Town Council, the applicant for the village green. The council applied to register the much-loved beach as a green in 2008 and, following a public inquiry in 2010, East Sussex County Council (the registration authority) agreed to the registration. However, the landowner, Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd (NPP), applied to the High Court for judicial review, which it won. The town council then appealed to the Court of Appeal which reversed the High Court judgment. Now NPP is appealing …read more

Beauty-spot sun factory is rejected

We are delighted that plans for 29,000 solar panels on open fields at Forty Green, near Bledlow in Bucks, have been rejected by Wycombe District Councillors. The panels, with a substation and a variety of buildings, would have smothered 45 acres at the foot of the Chiltern escarpment. The campaign against the proposal was led by our member the Solar Park Action Group.  The OSS, Bledlow Parish Council, the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Environment Agency, the Ramblers and over 400 individuals also objected. The applicant was Hive Energy. Wycombe District Council rejected this damaging development because it would have had ‘an unacceptable impact on the tranquil, intimate and historic local landscape character’ with ‘an unacceptable visual impact within the landscape’. …read more

Secretary of State to consider revoking planning permission to build on Dundonald Rec, Merton

We were represented at a meeting with Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the House of Commons on Monday 27 October in support of our member, Protect Dundonald Rec Campaign Group. The campaigners for Dundonald Rec asked the Minister to exercise his power to revoke the planning permission granted by the London Borough of Merton to itself to appropriate and develop part of the Rec. It handed over a dossier of evidence in support of its case. Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond arranged the meeting and was joined by representatives from the Friends of Dundonald Park, the Protect Dundonald Rec Campaign Group, the Dundonald Rec Tennis Club and Dundonald Rec Sports Committee. Lorraine Maries, chairman of …read more

We oppose plan to close vital Cornish rail-crossing

We are backing objectors to the proposed closure of a vital footpath across the railway line near Penzance, Cornwall. This pedestrian crossing at the Mexico Inn, Long Rock, provides an important short-cut for walkers. The alternative route is nearly a kilometre long. A public inquiry opens today (21 October) at the Marazion Community Centre, into Cornwall Council’s plan to close the crossing. It has forged ahead with this despite numerous objections when it consulted on the proposals last year. Network Rail and the council claim, with scant evidence, that the crossing is dangerous. This is a popular route for walkers at all times of year, and it also serves the people of the Long Rock community. It provides a direct …read more

Path to Ramsgate Harbour confirmed

The society is delighted that a new public highway has been recorded at Ramsgate harbour in Kent. The route runs between Madeira Walk and the lower esplanade at the harbour via a flight of steps and a tunnel. The society’s local correspondent for Thanet, Gordon Sencicle, backed the claim. Because there was an objection, the matter was determined by Helen Slade, inspector with the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The claim for the path to be added to the official map was based on documentary evidence. Kent County Council, the surveying authority, has a legal duty to investigate the existence of public rights of way in the area of Ramsgate …read more

Urbanisation of unspoilt Herefordshire countryside

We have objected to further plans by Bolderstone Innovative Energy Ltd to create new access to the Reeves Hill wind turbines on the prominent Herefordshire hilltop, close to the border with Powys. The four wind-turbines were given planning permission in 2012 but there are still outstanding issues to resolve. The proposed new access road is from the A4113, one mile east of Kington in Powys to Llanshay Lane, with the creation of passing places and upgrading the lane to enable large construction vehicles to reach Reeves Hill. The works are in Powys and the society has objected to Powys County Council, urging it to reject the application. We believe that the creation of the new access, involving 600 metres of …read more

Hampshire County Council to stop public from claiming rights on its land

We are dismayed that Hampshire County Council, the greens registration authority, is posting notices on all its countryside sites to prevent people from registering the land as a village green or claiming public paths there. The county council has written to all the parish clerks in Hampshire to warn them that the notices are going up. Local people who have enjoyed the land for informal recreation for 20 years have only one year after the notice is erected to apply to register the land as a village green. Since October last year landowners have been empowered to erect such notices and the society has already been told of 200 throughout England. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘We are deeply …read more

Riverside path at Purfleet re-opens after nearly 20 years

After nearly 20 years of obstruction, the riverside path at Purfleet, which leads to Grays, has re-opened following action by keen Thames-side walker and Open Spaces Society member Chris Smith. Chris was pleased to have the support of the OSS and the Ramblers. The path was obstructed in the 1990s near Purfleet Station by a 2 metre high metal fence which barred entry to the path. Thurrock council did nothing about this. Later, the council became owner of the land, but it still did nothing to open up the path. In the meantime local people, keen to use the path, broke open gaps elsewhere in the fence, but the right of way was still obstructed and those not “in the …read more

Government website advises landowners to break the law

The government website which advises landowners of their responsibilities for public rights of way on their land tells them to break the law. Says our general secretary Kate Ashbrook: ‘The website advises landowners that it’s OK to plough cross-field paths provided people can easily walk around the edge of the field.  The relevant legislation (Highways Act 1980 section 134) makes no mention of being able to walk around the field: it says that the occupier (ie landowner or tenant) of the field must not plough a cross-field path if it is reasonably convenient to avoid doing so. ‘Furthermore, the government advises landowners that if they have to cultivate a cross-field path, they must make the path apparent on the ground …read more

We fight development of Stockport’s green lung

We have objected to plans to develop part of the Reddish Vale Country Park, Stockport, for housing. Countryside Properties (UK) Ltd wants to build 99 houses there, on land north of Blackberry Lane. The society, in its objection letter to Stockport Council, has pointed out that the land is green belt and public open space — one of the last green lungs in Stockport. This country park offers opportunities for quiet enjoyment and games, and for children to play and run. Such open spaces in urban areas are vital for people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. This is the wrong site for house building. Local people desperately need this green space. We have urged the council to reject the …read more

Wales apes England in changing law to destroy village greens

The society is dismayed that the Welsh Government proposes to copy England’s law and boost developers in destroying village greens. The Welsh Government in its Planning Bill, published today (6 October), copies England’s Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013. It prohibits the registration of land as a town or village green where it has been identified for development. The government also plans to enable landowners to deposit statements with the registration (unitary) authority, challenging people’s use of the land for recreation. At present, local people can apply to register land as a green if they have enjoyed it for 20 years for informal recreation, without being stopped or given permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development. Says Nicola Hodgson, …read more

Victory against destructive Somerset solar farm

We are delighted that plans by INRG Solar Ltd, for 25,000 solar panels at Tynings Farm, Kilmersdon, Somerset, have been rejected by a planning inspector. We backed our member, the Jack and Jill Hill Preservation Society in fighting the scheme. The developers appealed against Mendip District Council’s refusal of planning permission and inspector John Wilde has dismissed the appeal. The plan was to erect 25,000 solar panels on 35 acres of fields at New Tyning Farm, for 25 years. The panels would have been highly visible from the public paths in the area, and would have smothered land close to Jack and Jill Hill of nursery-rhyme fame. They would have been an alien intrusion in this quiet landscape. The inspector …read more

Delay to implementation of Part 1, Commons Act 2006

The society is disappointed to learn that there has been a last-minute delay to implementation of Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 in two new pioneer areas, Cumbria and North Yorkshire. It will not therefore be possible to make applications in these two areas from 1 October as originally scheduled. We have been advised that the draft regulations, the Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014, should be finalised this week and we will then be notified of the revised implementation date. We understand that this is now likely to be 1 December 2014. Our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, says “We encourage people to take advantage of the opportunity to register lost commons in Cumbria and North Yorkshire when these two …read more

Public hearing for Ealing’s Haven Green

The Friends of Haven Green and the Open Spaces Society are defending Haven Green (which is common land) at a hearing on Thursday 25 September. Ealing Council wants to widen a footway, erect temporary fencing, renew the footways and swap the land occupied by the old bus-layby, which will become common, for other land which will be deregistered and will become highway. Because the development affects registered common land the matter must be decided by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Will French of the Friends of Haven Green will speak for the Open Spaces Society at the hearing. Says Will: ‘We object to the exchange of common land. The …read more

Saving an important route in Cwmcarn Forest, Caerphilly

Some months ago, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) made it known that as part of the plans to counteract the spread of Phytophthora ramorum (Larch disease) it would be felling all the larch trees in Cwmcarn Forest and closing the Forest Drive. Cwmcarn is alone in Wales in having a drive as well as cycling trails, walking trails, a visitors’ centre and a children’s playground. We have been aware of the threat of Larch disease to local forests and woodland for some time, but the threat of the closure of the drive came as a huge surprise. If other forests which do not have a drive can manage we wondered why the Cwmcarn drive should close. The threat of temporary closure …read more

Government boosts coastal access and parks

We are delighted at the announcement by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, that the government will put more money into providing access around England’s coast and into producing online maps of publicly-accessible green space. Speaking at the Royal Society for Protection of Birds’ State of Nature conference, Mr Clegg said that the government would provide additional funding to speed up coastal access so that it will be complete by 2020. He also said that the Ordnance Survey would provide data to allow for a new map of every publicly-accessible green space in England and Wales. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are delighted that coastal access had been given such a boost.  It will be a huge benefit …read more

We slate Lancashire County Council for path-closure plans

We are dismayed that Lancashire County Council proposes to close three footpaths which cross land at Helmshore Primary School, Haslingden, having failed last year to move them out of the way. The paths cross the field in the form of a triangle. The council claims the cross-field paths are a risk to security, yet it has produced no evidence to back this up. The paths were claimed for the official map by our member the Helmshore Community Action Group (HCAG) when the school obstructed them in 2005. Once the paths were added to the map, the obstructions were clearly illegal and HCAG secured their removal. The council’s plans to divert the paths onto inferior routes were rejected by the Planning …read more

Defeat of Somerset solar farm

We are delighted that a planning inspector has rejected plans for a solar farm. The development was proposed by MS Power Projects Ltd at Ritherdens, Rumwell, on three fields about a kilometre west of Taunton in Somerset. Taunton Deane Borough Council’s planning committee overturned the officer’s recommendation and refused planning permission, but the developers appealed and the matter was determined by Mr D C Pinner of the Planning Inspectorate. Our local correspondent Mr Paul Partington objected to the plans. The inspector reported that ‘The three footpaths crossing the appeal site provide safe and attractive places to walk. There are open views from these paths for much of their lengths and this contributes significantly to their attractiveness.’ He referred to them …read more

Unwelcome development on Lake District common

The Lowther Estate wants to develop White Moss Common next to the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere in the Lake District National Park. The estate proposes to create a visitor centre and hierarchy of routes at the existing car-park and has submitted a planning application to the Lake District National Park Authority (ref 7/2014/5399). The society and the Friends of the Lake District are among the objectors. We are dismayed that the Lowther Estate seems not to recognise that this is registered common land and that any works here require, in addition to planning consent, the approval of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The fact that …read more

Delight that Dartmoor eyesores have gone

Five kilometres of ugly poles and power-lines on Walkhampton Common, south-west Dartmoor, have been removed. Because the land is common, Western Power Distribution obtained consent last year under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 for the works. We supported the application. The beautiful open landscape of Walkhampton Common in the Dartmoor National Park has been blighted for decades by the overhead lines which run from Devil’s Elbow to Peek Hill. We have campaigned with the Dartmoor Preservation Association and others for their removal. The Dartmoor National Park Authority identified this line in the 1980s as a priority. We are delighted that the landscape has at least been freed from this eyesore and we can once again enjoy the open, …read more

We slate Caerphilly Council

We have criticised Caerphilly County Borough Council for claiming that its legal duties to maintain public paths are merely discretionary. The council’s online survey on its budget, ‘help us to shape your services’, asks for the public’s views on what it calls ‘discretionary services’ It includes in these ‘Country parks, including public rights of way and environmental maintenance’. We have written to the acting chief executive, Stuart Rosser, to point out that the maintenance of public rights of way, ie footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic, is not discretionary but a legal duty. We believe that the council is misleading the public by claiming that rights-of-way maintenance is discretionary. The council has a legal duty to …read more

John Riddall—a lawyer for the people

We are sad that John Riddall, who lived in Bradwell in the Derbyshire Peak District, has died aged 86.  He had been our vice-president since 2003 and was a trustee (1987–1993) and our local correspondent for the Derbyshire Dales district (1986-1994). With John Trevelyan he was co-author of the second, third and fourth editions of the famous ‘blue bible’ Rights of Way: a guide to law and practice, and the author of the second edition of our book Getting Greens Registered. In our movement he will be best remembered, and with huge gratitude, for his campaign to kill what he called the ‘belief virus’.  When claiming public paths or village greens, one has to prove 20 years’ use without interruption …read more

Private-parking plan rejected on Surrey common

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected plans by the Shere Manor Estate to create parking spaces on Hurtwood Common near Holmbury St Mary in Surrey. This was to be in connection with the housing development proposed for the former Hollybush Tavern. The development had been granted planning permission in January 2013 but, because the works were to be on common land, the estate also needed the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (delegated to the Planning Inspectorate). We objected because the works were of purely private benefit and would conflict with the public’s use and enjoyment of the common. They involved levelling a steep bank and clearing the vegetation and would have suburbanised this attractive …read more

Global commons conference, Canada, 25-29 May 2015

The commons amid complexity and change is the theme of the next global conference organised by the International Association for the Study of the Commons. It is to be held at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, from 25 to 29 May next year. Commons in an international sense are much broader than our ancient commons of England and Wales, meaning the common use of resources—land, water, air and knowledge. The Open Spaces Society has been working with the organisers and others to ensure that the conference is much more than purely an academic event, with significant content concerning practitioners on commons. For the first time, this (the fifteenth) biennial conference will embrace those who live and work on commons …read more

Common-land swap approved for Walton Heath, Surrey

The Planning Inspectorate has approved plans by Walton Heath Golf Club to swap an area of common land known as Beecham’s Field on the golf course for a site some distance away. The land to be taken is 80,000 square metres on the west side of the golf course (near the car-park) which the golf club wishes to develop into a practice ground for golfers. The proposed replacement is 98,000 square metres south of the M25 near Round Wood. Because the land is common, such exchange must be approved by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (delegated to the Planning Inspectorate). As this case was controversial there was a public inquiry last May. The objectors included …read more

Cross-compliance on public paths should apply in Wales

We have urged the Welsh Government to require that landowners and occupiers who receive agri-environment funding keep the public paths on their land in good order. The society was responding to the government’s consultation on Common Agricultural Policy reform and cross-compliance. We have said that owners or occupiers who receive public funds for the management of their land should be required to obey the law on public paths. If they allow paths to become blocked or cropped, they should relinquish their funding under the rules of cross-compliance. This is already the case in England and we believe it should apply in Wales too. The Welsh Government seems to be procrastinating by saying that the official (definitive) maps of rights of …read more

Have you walked the Mariners’ Way at Lettaford, North Bovey, Devon?

We are helping our member Sally Button over a dispute concerning the public footpath (also the Mariners’ Way) through Lettaford. This is an ancient farm at North Bovey near Moretonhampstead, Devon (postcode TQ13 8RH). It appears that the definitive map is in error because the definitive route of footpath 6 is blocked by an ancient hedgerow and there is no evidence that anyone has ever walked that way. Residents, local farmers and a long-standing national park ranger all say that they have never known this route to be used. The definitive map needs to be modified so that it shows the route which is actually walked, which passes through the farmyard. This route is evidently the public highway and it …read more

Gating plan for rural lane in Warwickshire

The society and the Warwickshire Ramblers have objected to a plan by Warwickshire County Council to put a locked gate across Tinkers Lane, Lapworth, south of the M40. The council has consulted us about making a gating order to reduce alleged crime and anti-social behaviour. We strongly oppose this because they have seen no evidence of crime or anti-social behaviour to justify this closure. There is only one property on the lane that would benefit from its gating, versus the severe inconvenience to countless walkers, horse-riders and cyclists of losing this important through-route. In any case, three footpaths cross Tinkers Lane between the proposed gates, thus nullifying the effect of any gating. We are dismayed that the council could even …read more

Isle of Wight to have coastal access at last

We are delighted that the government has today (10 July) announced that the Isle of Wight will be included in the coastal-access provisions of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The Act excludes from the coastal access process any island from which it is not possible to walk from the mainland. Such islands must be included by a special order.* The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consulted on this in July 2012 and again in December 2013. On both occasions there was overwhelming support for an order to include the Isle of Wight in the scheme. Now it has resolved to make an order and agreed that Natural England should continue with its current priorities for coastal access …read more

We deplore green space ‘sop’

Our vice-president, the open spaces expert Paul Clayden, condemned the government’s Local Green Space designation as a sop to local people, and no substitute for village and town greens. He was addressing our annual general meeting in London on 8 July. Paul said: ‘The Local Green Space, introduced in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework in 2012, has so far proved of no value. Unlike village greens, the designation gives the land no permanent protection, nor does it give the public the legal right to enjoy it. Yet the government offered Local Green Space as a sweetener when it slashed opportunities to register land as greens in its Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013. ‘Despite this, we know of no new …read more

Delight at ruling against path closure at Maulden, Beds

We are delighted that a plan to close a footpath in Maulden, Central Bedfordshire has been rejected by an independent inspector following a public inquiry last month. Central Bedfordshire Council made an order to close Maulden footpath 28 which runs past the property Ein-Ty in Clophill Road. Because there were objections, from the Open Spaces Society, Ramblers, Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association and East Herts Footpath Society among others, the matter was referred to the Planning Inspectorate. The 153-metre path, which runs from Clophill Road north to join bridleway 24 leading to Clophill Woods, has a controversial history. The owner of Ein-Ty, Mr Bowers, has repeatedly tried to get the route removed. Mid Bedfordshire District Council made two orders, in …read more

Luddesdown’s tribute to Pat Wilson

The Luddesdown Rights of Way Group has organised a finger-post in memory of the late Pat Wilson, our vice-president and local correspondent, pointing down the Bowling Alley at Luddesdown in Kent’s North Downs. In 1984 local people and national organisations, with Pat in the vanguard, defeated an attempt by the military to take over the area for training. Thanks to their efforts it remains as peaceful and beautiful as ever. On 22 June the group had a ceremony to unveil the finger-post.

Defra’s figures for village greens show it has acted on dogma not evidence

Figures published today by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) do not show that there was a need to change the law on village greens.  Last year the government passed the Growth and Infrastructure Act which outlaws the registration of land as a green where it is threatened with development, arguing that people were abusing greens registration to stop building. Defra has published its biennial survey of the commons registration authorities in England (county and unitary councils) which are responsible for the registration of greens.  At the time of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill it only had out-of-date figures, to September 2011. Says our case officer, Nicola Hodgson: ‘Once again we see that Defra has acted on …read more

We fear that government will privatise land of public importance

We are concerned that the government’s Infrastructure Bill could lead to the loss of publicly-important land.  The bill, currently in the House of Lords, appears to allow ministers to transfer land of public value to the Homes and Communities Agency and other bodies, and thence to developers.  We fear that this could not only be a rerun of the threat to the public forest estate, but it could affect other land of which is treasured by the public, such as common land, open spaces and public paths.   In the second-reading debate last week the minister of state for transport, Baroness Kramer, said that ‘the government are committed to England’s public forest estate and national parks remaining secure in public …read more

Plan dropped for massive wind-turbines in Cumbrian beauty-spot

Banks Renewables has abandoned its plan to build three massive wind-turbines near Killington Reservoir in Cumbria (near junction 37 on the M6 motorway)—the gateway to the Lake District and the Western Fells of the Yorkshire Dales. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, called in the application last March after South Lakeland District Council approved it, against the officer’s recommendation, in February. The Open Spaces Society, FELLS (Friends of Eden, Lakeland and Lunedale Scenery), the Friends of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales Society had all objected and a public inquiry was scheduled for September. Now the Planning Inspectorate has announced that the application has been withdrawn. This is splendid news. The development had far-reaching, …read more

Pub extension could threaten beauty-spot Chilterns common

We have objected to a planning appeal which could threaten the lovely Ibstone Common in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Bucks. The owners of the Fox public house in Ibstone applied to Wycombe District Council for permission to extend the premises, including a basement function-suite with capacity for 150 people. The council refused the application because there is inadequate parking, and the applicants have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. We have objected to the appeal because the number of vehicles which would need to be accommodated far exceeds the capacity of the existing car-park. The result will be that vehicles will park alongside the only road through the village, which is immediately adjacent to registered common land, …read more

Waverley Council to rethink future of Haslemere Common

We are delighted that Waverly Borough Council has decided to defer plans to refurbish Wey Hill Fairground common at Haslemere in Surrey. The land is currently used as a car-park. The council applied for consent for works on the common, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We and many others, including the Haslemere Society, objected. After the public inquiry had been arranged, the council withdrew the application so as to rethink its plans. Now Waverley is waiting for Haslemere Town Council and Haslemere Vision, the neighbourhood forum, to consider the borough council’s proposals as part of the wider neighbourhood plan and to come up with their own suggestions for the site. We have always felt that it was …read more

We appoint new treasurer

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Steve Warr as Treasurer and Trustee of the Open Spaces Society. Steve is a Chartered Accountant who spent his career in the banking industry. He brings considerable experience of operating at Board level to the role of Treasurer. He lives in north Oxfordshire and has had an interest in village greens for many years.

Residents of Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, win new green

Residents of Westgate-on-Sea, near Margate in Kent, have won a new village green, following four years of hard work and a public inquiry. The 2.44-acre field, consisting of rough grass with a wooded perimeter, has been enjoyed by local people for informal recreation since the end of the war. Sited north of Ursuline Drive, the land belongs to Kent County Council which transferred it to King Ethelbert School in 2010 having allowed the school to use it for sports. Local people wanted to ensure the field was maintained as an open space for recreational use by all. The Linksfield Estate Residents, led by Graham Rickett, applied for registration of the land as a green on the grounds that local people …read more

Outdoor organisations call on MPs and peers to “champion outdoor recreation” for the good of the nation

Ten leading outdoor organisations are joining together in Westminster today (11 June) to urge parliamentarians to factor the benefits of outdoor recreation into their manifestos and policies ahead of the next general election. The event, organised by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering, co-chaired by David Rutley MP and John Mann MP, will highlight the social, health and economic benefits that outdoor recreation contributes to the nation. MPs and peers have been invited to make a date with outdoor representatives at the ‘speed-briefing’ to learn more about outdoor recreation and countryside conservation. Millions of people love being outdoors whether for walking, cycling, running, exploring, climbing or visiting our National Parks and other open …read more

Our manifesto for green spaces

We have published our manifesto for the 2015 Westminster election. We are calling on politicians of all parties to support these policies. 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 where that land has been earmarked for development. To ensure our public paths …read more

Fisherman’s Beach town green registration celebrated

After three years’ hard work, residents of Hythe, near Folkestone in Kent have obtained town green status for Fisherman’s Beach in the western end of the town. Shepway Environment and Community Network (SECN), set up by local resident David Plumstead some years ago, first applied for registration in 2010 and finally achieved registration by Kent County Council in April of this year after a protracted fight with the local authority, Shepway District Council, which owned the beach and wanted to sell it for development. A public inquiry was ordered and held last year which the District Council refused to attend. The campaign to register the beach as a town green received the overwhelming support of the residents of Hythe Town …read more

Remove unlawful fence on Nottinghamshire common

We hope that Nottinghamshire County Council will take enforcement action against an unlawful fence on Hanging Hill Lane Common, Normanton-on-Trent. The common is a long strip, consisting of Hanging Hill Lane and a broad verge on either side. The verge is used by walkers and for access to adjoining fields, and the fence encloses part (68 square metres) of this land and prevents public access there. Any works on common land need the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The occupants of an adjoining property, Skegby Manor Cottages, applied to replace the existing fence with a brick wall topped with a timber …read more

We exhort councillors to back riverside route for missing link in Thames Path

Stop press:  Unfortunately, at its meeting on 5 June, the council agreed to pursue the roadside route and the car park on Bridge Gardens. We shall fight this. We have called on Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Councillors to vote today for a riverside route to fill the long-standing missing link in the Thames Path National Trail in Maidenhead. Members of the Rights of Way and Highway Licensing Panel are being recommended to reverse their unanimous decision on 4 March 2014 to pursue the creation of a path beside the river. They will discuss the issue at their meeting this evening (5 June). Now the cabinet is recommending to the panel that they extend the pavement beside the busy A4094 Ray …read more

Supreme Court denies village green protection in Whitby

R (on the application of Barkas) v North Yorkshire County Council [2014] UKSC31 (summary, full judgment). The Supreme Court has ruled that land at Helredale, on the south-east side of Whitby in North Yorkshire, cannot be registered as a village green. In October 2007 the Helredale Neighbourhood Council applied to register 14 hectares of land ( known as the Field) owned by Scarborough Borough Council, as a green, on the basis of 20 years’ use by local people for lawful sports and pastimes, without permission or challenge. North Yorkshire County Council, the registration authority, held a public inquiry. The inspector, Vivian Chapman QC, concluded in July 2010 that the use of the land had not satisfied the criteria under section …read more

Court of appeal thwarts Winchester village green application

The court of appeal has ruled that Hampshire County Council cannot consider an application by Barbara Guthrie to register land known as Bushfield Camp, at Winchester in Hampshire, as a town or village green. Mrs Guthrie had applied to register the land as a green on the basis of 20 years’ use by local people for lawful sports and pastimes, without interruption or challenge. The use had ended in July 2003 when the landowner, the Church Commissioners, erected a fence. The application had to be made within five years of the challenge, and Mrs Guthrie applied on 30 June 2008. It was defective and it was not until 20 July 2009, 13 months after the five-year limitation period had ended, …read more

A fair exchange

In February the Planning Inspectorate approved an application from Mr Ewan Bumpstead to swap 418 square metres of common land in front of his property at Booker in Buckinghamshire with 2544 square metres in a nearby wood. We supported the application. When Mr Bumpstead bought the property in 2010 he knew that the land in front of the house was common land but was unaware of its extent. The previous owners had maintained this land as a garden and Mr Bumpstead continued to do so. In 2012 he applied to deregister the common and exchange it for a plot at the rear. We objected to this: the exchange land was smaller and was part of the Booker Common woods which …read more

Reignite the campaigning Kinder trespassers’ zeal

‘We must reignite the campaigning zeal of the Kinder trespassers.  Times are tough for countryside campaigners, but the spirit of Kinder will carry us through.’ So declared our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, at the Spirit of Kinder event to celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the famous mass trespass.  This was held at Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday (26 April). ‘The governments in England and Wales are attacking our green spaces, making it almost impossible for local people to register them as town or village greens to secure their rights to enjoy them. ‘The cuts in local authority funding and the obsession with development mean that budgets for maintaining, creating and recording public paths have been slashed. ‘The national parks and …read more

Public Right of Way to Crinnis Beach at Carlyon Bay

There is to be a Public Inquiry on Tuesday 10th June 2014 starting at 10.00 a.m. To be held in the Council Chamber at St Austell One Stop-Shop, 39 Penwinnick Road, St. Austell PL25 5DR. Cornwall Council has already found that this right exists, to mean high water mark. However, objections to this small, but vital, beach end section have been made by the landowner GMV Nine Ltd. This triggered this Public Inquiry. Gloria Price, who is a co applicant, stated “I am delighted that the remainder of the right of way to Crinnis Beach is to be heard on 10th June. This thoroughly scrutinised application was started in January 2003, and has inched its way down the hill towards …read more

Circuit of Wales: public inquiry into development on common land

We are delighted that the Planning Inspectorate has called a public inquiry into plans by the Heads of the Valley Development Company Ltd to develop common land at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent. These works are proposed ahead of the prospective Circuit of Wales motor-racing development itself. The company has applied to the Welsh ministers for consent to carry out major works on the common. The public inquiry is scheduled for 24 June and will last for four days. If the Circuit of Wales development is to go ahead, the company will need the ministers’ consent to deregister about 340 hectares of common land and to give suitable land in exchange. The company has not yet submitted this application and so the …read more

‘Pathfinder Pat’ dies aged 97, still fighting for rights of way in Kent

We are sad to report that Pat Wilson, our vice-president and local correspondent, who fought for paths and open spaces throughout Kent and Medway for more than 50 years, has died aged 97 at her home in Kent. Pat was our local correspondent for Medway for 20 years. Before that she served as Ramblers’ footpath secretary for Kent. She was the president and founder of the Meopham and District Footpaths Group in north Kent. She died peacefully on Friday (4 April) while still in the midst of her campaigning work. Pat saved countless paths and open spaces in Kent and Medway. In 2012 she claimed more than 120 urban alleyways in Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham for the official path-map. Her …read more

Common-land champions welcome Natural England’s new focus on commons

The Foundation for Common Land and the Open Spaces Society have welcomed the news that Natural England has created a new post of Principal Specialist on Commons with effect from 1 April. The new role will ensure that common land is given a higher profile within Natural England and will bring together the multi interests in commons: agriculture, biodiversity, landscape and public enjoyment. The postholder is Pippa Langford, formerly Natural England’s Manager in People and Access. Says Pippa: ‘As the new lead on commons for Natural England I will be working with commons stakeholders to help conserve and enhance commons. Natural England recognises that commons, derived from traditional farming systems, are very special places for wildlife, landscape and millions of …read more

We present award to Bishop’s Meadow Trust

Our chairman, Tim Crowther, has presented a plaque to the Bishop’s Meadow Trust, Farnham, winner of the society’s first Open Space Award in 2012. The ceremony was held in the new community orchard, created for local schoolchildren to care for and harvest. The event was combined with a children’s tree-planting and the Mayor of Farnham, Councillor Patrick (Paddy) Blagden opened the orchard. Said Tim: ‘The Open Spaces Society was formed in 1865 by a group of committed and far-seeing individuals in response to the serious threats of enclosure of common land in and around London. ‘The result of the society’s early campaigning efforts was to save many commons, Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath for example, from built development. ‘Now, almost …read more

Glastir scheme recognises public benefits of common land

We are pleased that the Welsh Government, in the proposed new Glastir scheme for agri-environment payments in Wales, recognises the value of common land in providing public benefit. The government proposes, in the new phase, to introduce a single scheme for common land. This will reduce bureaucracy and administration costs and enable the scheme to be targeted to the particular needs of common land. Thanks in part to the government’s appointment of Commons Development Officers, who facilitate schemes on commons and liaise with the grazing associations, many more commons are being included in the agri-environment scheme. The government hopes that, by 2015, over 60 per cent of Welsh common land will be sustainably managed within Glastir. We have responded to …read more

Whitby village green’s fate to be decided by Supreme Court

The application to register Helredale playing fields as a village green will be heard in the Supreme Court on Wednesday 2 April. The case could last for two days. We have assisted members of Helredale Neighbourhood Council (HNC) in Whitby, North Yorkshire, with their case. A member of the HNC committee, Mrs Christine Barkas, had applied to register the four-acre site on the grounds that it had been used for informal recreation by local people ‘as of right’, ie without being challenged and without permission—essential criteria for registering land as a green. If it is registered the land will be protected from development: there are plans to build houses here. The application for a green was rejected by the Court …read more

Spirit of Kinder celebrations, 26 April 2014

The annual Spirit of Kinder event, celebrating Kinder Scout and the 1932 mass trespass, will this year be held in Sheffield on Saturday, April 26. The event, which will also celebrate ten years of the implementation of the CROW Act which gave the right to walk freely in open country, is organised by the Kinder and High Peak Advisory Committee and will be held at Sheffield Town Hall starting at 2.30pm. It is free and open to all. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, will be among the speakers. Says Kate: ‘It is vital that we remember the courage and vision of those campaigners 82 years ago. They risked their freedom in order that we can now enjoy ours. But the …read more

Secretary of State calls in Cumbrian wind-turbine application

We are delighted that Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has called in the planning application for three wind-turbines near Killington Reservoir in Cumbria (near junction 37 on the M6 motorway) —the gateway to the Lake District and the Western Fells of the Yorkshire Dales. South Lakeland District Council approved the application, against the officer’s recommendation, last month. The Open Spaces Society, FELLS (Friends of Eden, Lakeland and Lunedale Scenery), the Friends of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales Society wrote to the Secretary of State urging him to call the matter in because of its far-reaching, national implications. The site is adjacent to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks, it would …read more

Eyesore in South Devon beauty-spot

We have objected to plans by the Harlequin Group to erect a telecommunications mast and associated development in open countryside in south Devon. The application will be determined by South Hams District Council. The 15-metre high mast would be close to the listed Houghton Farm, a mile north of Ringmore, near Bigbury. It would also overlook a network of public footpaths. The development would be a severe eyesore in the designated South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would spoil the enjoyment of the many people who walk the footpaths close by. The applicant has admitted that walkers using footpaths to the north of the site would have clear views of the whole installation. The mast in particular would …read more

Unfair exchange at Beverley Westwood Common

We have objected to plans by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to swap land on Beverley Westwood Common for a small piece on the northern edge. This is to accommodate a cycle track across the common. The law (section 16 of the Commons Act 2006) requires any exchange of common land to take account of the interests of the neighbourhood and the public interest. We do not consider that these interests have been met. The replacement land is remote and largely inaccessible. On race days it cannot be reached by the route over the race course and, in any case, it is currently closed for renovation. In wet weather the alternative route is extremely muddy. The replacement land is …read more

Our new activist for Wealden District, East Sussex

We have appointed Mr Brendan Clegg as our local correspondent for Wealden District in East Sussex. Brendan will be the society’s eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in the district and intervening as necessary. Says Brendan: ‘I am very pleased to be appointed as local correspondent for the society. In the Wealden District of East Sussex we have some of the finest access land in the south-east, including the 6,400-acre Ashdown Forest (of Winnie the Pooh fame), and part of the South Downs National Park. We also have an extensive network of public rights of way. ‘I look forward to helping protect the open spaces, the commons, greens and public paths that …read more

We blast solar factory in Bucks beauty spot

We have objected to a planning application for 28,000 solar panels on open fields near Bledlow in Bucks. The panels, with a substation and a variety of buildings, will cover 46 acres at the foot of the Chiltern escarpment. The campaign against the proposal is led by the Solar Park Action Group, a member of the society. The applicants call this a ‘solar park’ to make it sound acceptable but of course that is a euphemism; it is a solar factory in open countryside. It will be highly visible from numerous places, near and far. It will be an eyesore from Bledlow and its surrounding settlements of Henton, Forty Green, Skittle Green and Holly Green, as well as from the …read more

New Planning Practice Guidelines published

In a written statement on 6 March, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Planning, Nick Boles, announced the publication of the Coalition Government’s updated Planning Practice Guidelines. In his statement, Mr Boles refers to the government’s commitment to ensuring that countryside and environmental protections continue to be safeguarded and that power is devolved, not just to local councils, but also to neighbourhoods and local residents. The section on Open space, sports and recreation facilities, public rights of way and local green space specifically explains how the new local green space designation is to be implemented. For further information, please click here.

We call on local councils to help rescue green spaces

We have urged local councils to be active in rescuing green spaces in their communities. Our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, was addressing the Society of Local Council Clerks’ national conference for practitioners near Derby on 1 March. She spoke on the threats to town and village greens, common land and open spaces, and what local councils can do to protect them. Nicola presented a four-point plan for local councils. She said: ‘Local councils are uniquely placed to protect open spaces for public enjoyment. Open spaces are under threat of development and the government has relaxed the laws intended to protect them. Here are some things that clerks may, with the authority of their local council, do. 1 Register land which …read more

Richard Harland, 1920 – 2013

We remember Richard Harland, our former vice-chairman who died aged 93 last November, and  who made a quiet but significant contribution to commons and access. Richard Harland was a Quaker, a pacifist and campaigner, who loved beautiful landscapes and their history, and had a strong belief that people should be free to enjoy the countryside. Richard was born at Scarborough and spent his early years there.  As a teenager he roamed the nearby moors, alone or with his family; he loved the heather and the becks and enjoyed looking for prehistoric remains.  He went to Bootham School, York, and Queen’s College, Oxford where he studied modern history and jurisprudence. In 1941 he registered as a conscientious objector to military service …read more

Welsh Government’s threat to village greens

We have responded robustly to the Welsh Government’s draft Planning Bill in which it proposes to prohibit the registration of land as a town or village green where it has been identified for development. The government also plans to enable landowners to deposit statements with the registration (unitary) authority, challenging people’s use of the land for recreation. At present, local people can apply to register land as a green if they have enjoyed it for 20 years for informal recreation, without being stopped or given permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘These proposals strike a blow at the heart of local communities, preventing them from securing the land they have long enjoyed. …read more

We welcome electronic registers for Welsh commons

We are delighted that the Welsh Minister for Natural Resources, Alun Davies, has pledged to introduce electronic registers for all common land in Wales. He made the announcement on 12 February, undertaking to invest £5 million in the project which will be completed by the end of 2017. There are 175,000 hectares of common land in Wales, 8.5 per cent of the land area, and commons are important for their contribution to the landscape and biodiversity of Wales, as well as to the hill-farming economy and for public access.  The electronic registers will replace the 50-year-old paper registers and will be accurate and accessible. This is a great step forward for common land in Wales.  It will help to raise …read more

Government’s new attack on beleaguered green spaces

Update:  On 28 January, the order was confirmed by both Houses, see below: House of Commons debate House of Lords debate Read the confirmed order here. The government has struck yet another blow at open spaces. On Tuesday 28 January parliamentary committees will be asked to rubber-stamp a set of measures which make it even harder for local people to register land as a village green. Last April the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 took effect, outlawing the registration of greens in England where a ‘trigger event’ had occurred on the land, ie where an application for planning permission had been made, or the site had been identified for potential development in a draft development plan. This immediately prevented many …read more

Court ruling gives green light to developers on open spaces

‘A black ruling for greens’, is how we responded to the judgment* in the Supreme Court yesterday (5 February) which gives a green light to developers who want to build on open spaces. The court ruled that village greens at Curtis Fields at Weymouth in Dorset and Clayton Fields at Kirklees, West Yorkshire, must be removed from the greens register, leaving them at risk of development. The case turned on whether the developers’ delay in challenging village-green status was unreasonable—a delay of four years in the Dorset case, and 12 years at Kirklees. The judges held that there was no evidence that anyone was prejudiced by the delay in determining the status of the land. They found in favour of …read more

We oppose fencing on Bowland common

We have objected to an application from the Yorkshire Burnmoor Graziers to erect fencing on common land, alongside Mewith Lane near Bentham in North Yorkshire. The common is within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The society objects because the fence will enclose the lane which currently crosses open country. The fence will give a closed-in feeling and will be an eyesore. The site offers fine views of at least two of the Three Peaks—Ingleborough and Peny-y-Ghent. The fence will destroy the open feeling of this landscape, cutting off a smaller area to the north of the lane from the rest of the common. People have the right to walk over the whole area, and the proposed …read more

Industrial development on South Wales common

We have slated plans by the Heads of the Valley Development Company Ltd to develop common land at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent, ahead of the prospective Circuit of Wales motor-racing development. The company has applied to the Welsh ministers for consent to carry out major works on the common. If the Circuit of Wales development is to go ahead, the company will need the ministers’ consent to deregister about 340 hectares of common land and to give suitable land in exchange. The company has not yet submitted this application and so the future of the motorsports development remains uncertain. But regardless of this, the company is now seeking consent for buildings, haul roads, car-parking, trenches and drains, stockpiles of excavated material …read more

We back coastal access for the Isle of Wight

We have again called on the environment minister to include the Isle of Wight in the coastal-access provisions of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consulted on this in July 2012 and then, despite the overwhelming support for the order, resolved not to proceed.  Now it has decided to give a second opportunity for people to state or re-state their views. We have responded on both occasions, urging the minister to make the order to include the Island. It is hard to understand why the then minister, Richard Benyon, refused to make the order when there was such an overwhelming response in favour, but we are pleased that Defra is having a …read more

Disused railway should be village green for Llanmorlais

The community of Llanmorlais, a small village seven miles west of Swansea, could see a strip of disused railway confirmed as their village green after a public inquiry in March. James Matthews, an Open Spaces Society member, has made the application after villagers completed evidence of their uninterrupted use of the land for 20 years. We welcome our member’s application for a village green. ‘This will be a fabulous asset for a small community, protecting the disused railway for local people to continue to enjoy for informal recreation,’ says Jay Kynch, our local correspondent in South Wales. ‘What is most important is that local residents used the green, for play and other informal recreation, between 1989 and 2009 without seeking …read more

Horsted Keynes footpath is saved

A popular footpath at Horsted Keynes, four miles north-east of Haywards Heath in West Sussex, has been saved on its existing route. West Sussex County Council backed the landowner, Miss Wykeham-Martin, in her application to move the footpath, number 8/1, which runs across three fields at Lucas Farm to the edge of two of them. Because there were objections the case was referred to the Planning Inspectorate and a public inquiry was held last year, at which the objectors included the society, Horsted Keynes Parish Council, the Ramblers and four local residents. The inspector, Susan Doran, ruled that the path should not be moved. Although the landowner had cited problems of users straying from the official line of the path, …read more

Mendip Council rejects solar farm in Somerset beauty-spot

Mendip Council has refused permission for a solar farm at Kilmersdon, near Radstock in Somerset. The Pegasus Group wanted to erect about 25,000 solar panels on 35 acres of fields at New Tyning Farm, for 25 years. We backed our member the Jack and Jill Hill Preservation Society in opposing the scheme. The society was concerned that the development would be an eyesore in this lovely area. The site is close to Jack and Jill Hill, named after the nursery rhyme and therefore popular with visitors. It is visible from the local footpaths; these connect with national cycle route 24 which runs from Bath to Eastleigh in Hampshire. We are highly relieved that Mendip Council has refused permission because the …read more

Last chance to save Dorset village green

We are supporting our member the Society for the Protection of Markham and Little Francis at a hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday (15 January 2014). The local society will seek to persuade the court to uphold the registration of the village green on the outskirts of Weymouth, Dorset.  This is the last chance to save the land from development so that local people can continue to enjoy it for recreation. The single issue for the court to consider is the length of time the land was registered as a village green before the landowner, Betterment Properties Ltd, started proceedings to remove the registration. The 42-acre site was registered by Dorset Council County as a village green in 2001.  …read more

We urge Welsh environmental body to champion common land

We have urged Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to champion common land and to oppose government plans to weaken the law protecting village greens.  The society has responded to NRW’s consultation, Planning our Future. We are concerned that nowhere in the document is there a mention of common land and its crucial role in securing a good environment.  Commons are of exceptional public importance; they have remained undisturbed through history, have a rich biodiversity and provide unspoiled, inspirational landscapes. We are also concerned that there is no mention of the importance of Wales’s fine landscapes and the role of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to the diverse scenery of Wales, and their contribution to the rural economy. We …read more

DEFRA publishes guidance on authorizing structures

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published its guidance to local authorities on authorizing structures such as stiles and gates on rights of way, and their obligations under the Equality Act 2010. (Click to read) This is the product of a working party on which the society was represented by Chris Beney.

Government’s plans for common land biased against public

We have criticised as biased Defra’s announcement today (9 January) that it will bring into effect only part of the law for updating the common-land registers, to favour landowners against the public interest. The environment ministers Lord de Mauley and Dan Rogerson have said that the government will implement part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 fully in Cumbria and North Yorkshire. In the rest of England it will be implemented only partially and unfairly, enabling landowners to remove commons from the registers without the balancing provision enabling the public to add land which was wrongly excluded. Over seven years after royal assent, the law has so far only been fully implemented in seven pioneer authorities. Full implementation of the …read more

Misleading articles about homeowners and ramblers: we put things straight

The society has criticised as muddled, misleading and inaccurate the stories which appeared in the national press on 2 January, with the headlines ‘Homeowners win right to bar ramblers from land’ (The Times) and ‘Homeowners’ victory in battle with ramblers’ (The Telegraph). The stories suggest that, under the proposed Deregulation Bill, landowners will have a new right to divert ‘historic rights of way’.  Says our general secretary Kate Ashbrook: ‘There is no such provision and it would not anyway be new.  Landowners can already apply to divert public paths, and the diversion may well go ahead, provided it fulfils the legal tests relating to the convenience of users and so on.  Also, it is possible now for a council to …read more

Landmark judgment on highway obstruction

A High Court judge has ruled that gates erected across Barcroft Lane by Mr Brian Herrick, owner of the £3.8-million Barcroft Hall at South Petherton in Somerset, are unlawful.  They must now be removed. On 17 February Mr Justice Cranston handed down his judgment in Herrick v Kidner and Somerset County Council, which is the triumphant end of a six-year campaign by local resident and OSS member Peter Kidner to get the unlawful gates removed from Barcroft Lane (public footpath Y24/10).  Mr Kidner had used a legal device (section 130A-D of the Highways Act 1980(2)) which empowers a member of the public to serve a notice on the highway authority (Somerset County Council) to get an illegal obstruction removed from …read more

Eightieth anniversary of milestone law for walkers and riders

The legal rule that a path becomes a right of way after 20 years’ unhindered public use is 80 years old today (1 January).  The Rights of Way Act 1932 came into effect on 1 January 1934 and applied throughout England and Wales. We celebrate the eightieth anniversary of this milestone act of parliament for walkers, riders and other path users.  Our society played a seminal role in the passage of this act which made it easier for the public to claim routes as public paths.  The society first drafted the bill in 1906; this became the 1932 Act. The act introduced the rule that members of the public could claim a route as a public path if they could …read more

Bovine TB control and commons

Because of the potential effect on common land, we have responded to a consultation from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on proposals for new controls to reduce the risk of bovine TB transmission between cattle herds. We have objected to the proposed amendment to remove the common land pre-movement testing exemption from the TB regulations. The effect would be that cattle could not be moved readily on and off the common, which would have a detrimental effect on conservation grazing and commons management. We believe that there is little evidence that there is a higher risk of contracting TB on commons than elsewhere and we consider that those farming on common land should not be faced with …read more

Welsh Government wants to pave the way for development of green spaces

We have condemned the Welsh Government’s draft Planning Bill in which it proposes to pave the way for development of open spaces by changing the law for registering land as a town or village green. The Welsh Government wants to make it impossible to apply to register land as a green where that land is subject to any planning restriction. This law was introduced in England earlier this year in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘We are dismayed that the Welsh Government plans to copy the Westminster government in introducing these damaging changes to the law. They will mean that once much-loved land is threatened with development, it will be too late for …read more

Natural England’s new chairman jumps to reopen public paths on his land

Andrew Sells, the new chairman of Natural England, the government’s statutory adviser on countryside recreation, has hastily reopened a blocked right of way across his Wiltshire land following his appointment. Mr Sells, who is a venture capitalist and a major Tory party donor, was scrutinised by the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on 11 December before his appointment is confirmed. There, in response to a question from Emma Lewell-Buck MP, he gave ‘a categoric assurance that the footpaths over my land are clear, open and available’. This was not true. Two days later he had removed three fences which were blocking Luckington footpath 21 on his land at Sandy Farm, Sopworth, to make the footpath walkable …read more