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Public-path victory over élite private school

Local residents, backed by the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers and the Harrow Hill Trust, have defeated plans by élite Harrow School to move two public footpaths across its sports pitches, all-weather pitches and tennis courts. The objectors fought the plans at a six-day public inquiry earlier this year. The government inspector, Ms Alison Lea, has now rejected the proposals. Harrow School which spreads over 300 acres, is one of Britain’s most élite institutions. The annual fees are £37,350 (the average UK annual wage is £26,500). The school wanted to move two public footpaths, officially known as numbers 57 and 58 in the London Borough of Harrow, which have for centuries run in direct lines across the land now forming …read more

We question legality of planned wind-turbines in unique Powys beauty-spot

We have slated plans for seven wind-turbines in the quiet countryside five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys. The application, first submitted by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd in 2014, comes before Powys County Council’s planning committee on Thursday 27 April. We have written a further letter to the planning committee. We say that if the turbines are built they may be in breach of an inclosure award. The land on which it is proposed to construct at least four of the seven turbines, together with the associated development, is part of an area inclosed by orders made under the Commons Act 1876, for Llandegley Rhos and Hendy Bank. The order gives the public a right of access here and decrees …read more

Development next to Welsh Newton common, Herefordshire

We have objected to a planning application which could have a damaging effect on Welsh Newton common in south Herefordshire. The plan is to convert the redundant Methodist chapel to provide additional accommodation to the owners of Primrose Cottage next door, and to erect a garage at Primrose Cottage. The properties are immediately adjacent to Welsh Newton common, and the development could mean that there will be new access-ways over the common or improvement of existing tracks. Works on common land require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, in addition to any planning permission. It could also lead to car-parking on the common, for which …read more

Our call for council candidates in Wales to pledge support for paths and spaces

We have urged our members in Wales to contact their council candidates for the local-government elections on 4 May and ask for candidates’ support for public paths, open spaces, common land and village greens. We refer to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and its seven goals.¹ The Act requires there to be a Public Services Board in every local authority area; it must produce a local Well-being Plan to deliver these goals. Public paths, open spaces and public access are highly relevant to their delivery. The local authority is represented on the Public Services Board, and therefore councillors can have a direct input. We suggest that our members put questions such as the following to their candidates. …read more

Post Brexit: we want more access and better landscapes

‘We must make sure post-Brexit agricultural payments are used to improve public access and the landscape, so that places like the South Downs National Park will benefit.’ So said our general secretary Kate Ashbrook at the rally to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the South Downs National Park, in Midhurst, West Sussex on Saturday 15 April. ‘Public money must be spent on public goods’ Kate continued, ‘and that means improving our enjoyment of the countryside, by better paths and more access land, and restoring the downs and heaths for people and wildlife. ‘The public-path network is at risk of neglect and deterioration from lack of funding, as the county councils have other priorities even in the national park.  We have …read more

We deplore further erosion of green-space protection

The government has struck a further blow to open spaces. We are dismayed that it has introduced additional measures which restrict the ability of local people to register land as a town or village green. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contains new ‘trigger events’ which prevent the registration of land as town or village green in England when a local planning authority publishes its intention to grant planning permission in principle, for instance by registering it as brownfield land. The government has already restricted the opportunity to register land which is threatened with development, in a series of attacks on green spaces. The first was in the Growth and Infrastructure Act in April 2013 which outlawed registration where a …read more

Damaging plans in Glasbury, Powys

We have objected to a planning application for 18 dwellings and associated works in the village of Glasbury on the River Wye in Powys. The society is concerned that the development would be on land which has customarily been enjoyed by the public for informal recreation and that it will also affect public paths. The development would destroy the former Glasbury School playing-fields which have long been enjoyed by local people for recreation. It is possible that residents can register the land as a village green, to secure their rights and protect the land from development. The development would also interfere with a public footpath which is on the official map, and other paths which have not yet been recorded. …read more

We fight for Trimpley Green, Kidderminster

We have called on Worcestershire County Council to reject an application to deregister part of Trimpley Green¹, common land near Kidderminster.   The application² was made to the council in July 2016, in relation to land east of the pond on the Habberley road. The application suggests that the land to be deregistered is part of the curtilage of Crofton Lodge and Crofton Park, and should be removed from the register so that it would cease to be common land. The society has submitted an objection to the application, and encouraged others who care about the integrity of their green to object too. If the land were to be deregistered it would no longer benefit from the protection given by …read more

Track-threat to Naphill Common, Bucks

We have objected to a planning application adjacent to Naphill Common in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The proposal is to erect three houses in place of one at Heatherlands on Downley Road. Naphill is about three miles north-west of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. The society is concerned that the development requires a new access track at the rear, over the common. The applicant does not mention this, nor does she seem to recognise that such a track requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006; this is in addition to planning permission. The new track will degrade this lovely common in the Chilterns …read more

Help us to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the South Downs National Park

The Hampshire Ramblers have organised an event to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the South Downs National Park, at which our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, is one of the speakers (at 3pm). It is on Saturday 15 April, starting at 11am at the South Downs Centre, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 9DH. After a short introductory talk from Margaret Paren, chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, there will be a seven-mile walk led by George and Jasper Stride (with shorter option available). The walk will take in local attractions including Stedham Mill. The walks will return to the centre at about 3pm. Kate Ashbrook will then give a short talk and there will be tea and cakes kindly provided …read more

Amenity organisations call for an immediate end to zoo parking on the Downs

National and local amenity organisations today called on Bristol City Council to put an immediate end to zoo parking on the Downs. In a joint statement, Bristol Civic Society, the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge, the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers, and the Redland and Cotham Amenity Association said: ‘The Downs are one of Bristol’s most prized assets, protected by law since the nineteenth century as a place for the people of Bristol to enjoy. The zoo was first allowed to park on the Downs in the 1960s as an emergency measure. It is shocking that parking has expanded and continued for fifty years, in clear contravention of planning policies. The zoo applied for a seventh temporary planning …read more

Unfair land-swap at Gorseinon, Swansea

Persimmon Homes wants to swap an area of Mynydd Garngoch Common at Gorseinon, north-west of Swansea. The plan is to strike 0.71 hectares of common land from the register and use it for development, replacing it with 0.81 hectares of land which we and others believe to be inferior. Persimmon says that it needs the existing common to build a roundabout, providing access to the new Garden Village. Applications to exchange common land require the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate. Objectors have until 31 March to make their representations. We have objected because we believe that Persimmon should have arranged its development to avoid the common, which is a precious asset for the community. The proposed replacement …read more

Watton Copse, Driffield, is freed from unauthorised oil-tank

An unauthorised oil-tank on Watton Copse, Driffield, has been removed. This follows refusal of planning permission by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. The Open Spaces Society, Watton Parish Council and 42 local people opposed the application. A year ago, owners of a neighbouring property in Vicarage Close, Watton, had placed an oil tank in the wood which is amenity land owned by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. The council refused to take enforcement action despite repeated requests from local people. The adjoining owners then sought consent to use the land for domestic purposes, including car-parking, and retrospectively for the oil tank. Once consent was refused, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s enforcement officer issued an enforcement notice, but …read more

We fear loss of public paths in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire County Council has consulted on its plan to categorise the county’s public paths so that some will receive little or no attention. It proposes to put paths into categories to determine the level of their maintenance, with a complicated system of assigning the priority to be given to each route. We are deeply concerned about this. It appears that those routes which are afforded low priority will be neglected and consequently less used, and they could in effect be lost even if they are not closed legally. Public footpaths and bridleways are highways in law, just like any road. The county council has a statutory duty to maintain all the highways in its area. It cannot in law …read more

We fight electricity line across Bridgend common

Western Power Distribution intends to site an overhead electricity line, with 16 poles, on a South Wales common. The society has objected. The proposed electricity line would run for more than a mile across Mynydd Llangeinwyr common, the upland between Cwm Garw and Cwm Ogwr Fawr about six miles north of Bridgend. Because the line will affect common land, Western Power Distribution must obtain the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We believe that the line will be an eyesore and will spoil the enjoyment of walkers and riders on this wild, open common. The public has the right to walk and ride on this common, which is a lung …read more

Unfair land-swap at Therfield Heath Common, Royston

We have objected to a proposed land swap by the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens. The conservators wish to exchange 1.65 acres of common land off Sun Hill at Royston in Hertfordshire for the same area of woodland over a mile away. The proposed exchange is to enable the conservators to build eight dwellings on the area of common to be deregistered, which is on the western side of Royston. Applications to exchange common land are determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. The inspector must consider the interests of those with rights on the land to be deregistered as …read more

Eastbourne downs will not be sold

We are delighted that Eastbourne Borough Council has done a U-turn and decided not to sell 3,000 acres of its downland. The decision follows a public poll which showed that 75 per cent of respondents voted against the sale of downland, even though this may mean a cut in other services. We called on the council to halt its plans and we backed Keep Our Downs Public and other organisations which protested against the threat to the downs. The land was acquired in 1929 by Eastbourne Council to ‘secure free and open use of the Downs in perpetuity’. We are relieved that Eastbourne Council has reversed its plans to flog off its magnificent downland. The society was active in 1929 …read more

Public inquiry into diversion of Harrow School footpaths finishes

The public inquiry, which opened in January, into the diversion of two footpaths across Harrow School grounds, ended this week. It lasted for nearly six days instead of the scheduled three. The inquiry was prolonged partly because of the number of objectors to the scheme. These included the Open Spaces Society, Ramblers, Harrow Hill Trust and many local people. Harrow School wished to move public footpaths 57 and 58 which have for centuries run in a direct line across its grounds. Footpath 57 follows a north-south route between Football Lane and Pebworth Road. Unfortunately, the school built tennis courts across the path in 2003, instead of first moving the footpath. Local people wanted the path to be reopened but instead …read more

We press government to take urgent action to save parks

We are disappointed that the House of Commons Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, in its recent report on public parks, has rejected the proposal that a statutory duty be placed on local authorities to provide and maintain parks. The CLG Committee held an inquiry into public parks and asked three questions: why parks matter, what challenges are facing the parks sector, and how we can secure a sustainable future for parks. We recommended a statutory duty for parks and believe that the committee’s refusal to introduce one is a missed opportunity to help protect parks. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘As a discretionary service, parks are put to the back of the funding queue, the more so now in …read more

Wisley interchange upgrade: Highways England must put its own house in order first

We have responded to the consultation on an upgrade to Wisley M25/A3 interchange by calling on Highways England to put its own house in order first. The society is opposed to the upgrade, but also notes that, more than 30 years after the construction of the M25 through Wisley common and Chatley Heath, the motorway remains designated as registered common land* to this day — land to which the public has a right of access on foot and on horseback. Moreover, land given in replacement for the taken common land has never been registered, so that the public cannot find out where it has a right to walk and ride instead. Our case officer, Hugh Craddock, comments: ‘It is unacceptable …read more

Our four-point plan to improve paths in Powys

We have called on Powys County Council to step up its work in maintaining and promoting the county’s public-path network. The society was responding to a consultation on the council’s revised rights-of-way improvement plan (ROWIP). Our Radnorshire representative, Peter Newman, says that much of the public-rights-of-way network in Powys is ‘dire’ and that in many communities the majority of paths are unusable, owing to wilful obstructions especially barbed-wire fences across the paths, and are unknown because they lack signposts and waymarks. Says Peter: ‘The council claims that 40 per cent of the public rights of way were open and easy to use in 2013. Our experience is that the percentage is lower than that.’ Peter argues that the current policies …read more

Closing the environmental impact assessment loophole on commons

We have called upon Defra to revoke its long-standing but unlawful exemption of works on common land from environmental impact assessment (EIA). The Government has recently concluded a consultation on implementing an amending directive (Directive 2014/52/EU) on EIA. The consultation includes proposals to amend regulations* which apply EIA to agricultural development projects with likely significant effects on the environment. At present, those regulations require agricultural development projects to be screened to decide whether their impact demands an EIA, if the project exceeds certain thresholds as to the nature, size etc—for example, a project which involves more than 2 km of new or removed fences, walls or hedges in a National Park must be screened. But the regulations exempt works on …read more

Our new representatives in Cornwall

We have appointed two new representatives in Cornwall: Jacqueline Merrick for Kerrier and Lucy Wilson for North Cornwall. As local correspondents, Jacqueline and Lucy will be the society’s eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in their areas and intervening as necessary. Among other activities, they will object to proposed changes to public paths where they are against the public interest, they will put in reports to the council about blocked paths, and they will help to research unrecorded historic routes which should be shown on Cornwall’s definitive map. Jacqueline is a mother, grandmother, semi-retired organic farmer, educational conservation field ecologist, wildlife guide, environmental campaigner, keen cyclist, rider and dog walker. She grew …read more

Development on Watton Copse

We have objected to a retrospective planning application to use Watton Copse for an oil-storage tank and for domestic purposes including car-parking. The land adjoins Vicarage Close in Watton, about five miles south of Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The land belongs to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is therefore public. There is a long tradition of community use of the copse, and the public is accustomed to roam freely here. The oil tank and concrete hardstanding have been installed without planning permission and without the consent of the council as landowner. We are supporting the local community and the parish council in opposing this development. It may sound insignificant but it has a damaging effect …read more

Friends of Coldhams Common celebrate removal of barbed wire fencing

Our member, Friends of Coldhams Common, is celebrating the removal of over 330m of barbed wire fence on the common. The fencing was a serious hazard to dogs and walkers on the common and probably dated from a 1980s City Council grant for tree planting. The barbed wire was erected to protect the trees from cows, but never removed, preventing open access to about 0.4 ha of greenspace for 30 years [a football pitch is 0.6 ha]. Open access as well as grazing on the common is a “commoner’s right” enjoyed by all Cambridge citizens. Chris Smith, Chair of Friends of Coldhams Common, explained what had happened : “My dog Lucy had serious throat injuries from cutting herself on the …read more

We celebrate good news for riders and cyclists at North Lopham, Norfolk

We are delighted that a restricted byway has been newly recorded at North Lopham in south-west Norfolk. Norfolk County Council made a definitive map modification order, following an application made by our local correspondent Ian Witham on behalf of the society, in 2015. The order was confirmed by the council, unopposed, on 1 December 2016. The route, to the east of the village, is a quiet, enclosed track, some 245 metres long (with a width varying between seven and eleven metres), known locally as Jubilee Lane, and runs between quiet roads known as Tann’s Lane and Primrose Lane. The route had been recorded on the definitive map as a footpath, but Ian’s claim was based upon historical evidence showing that …read more

Packed village hall for launch of campaign for Dorchester’s paths and open spaces

The village hall at Dorchester on Thames in Oxfordshire was packed on Tuesday evening (10 January) for the launch of the village’s campaign to preserve the footpaths and open access to the historic Dyke Hills and Day’s Lock Meadow close to the River Thames. Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, and Dorchester resident Becky Waller spoke at the 180-strong public meeting. They called on residents of Dorchester, Little Wittenham and other nearby villages to join the crusade. A new landowner, UKIP’s former treasurer Mr Andrew Reid of Bishop’s Court Farm, has erected fencing across paths which people have used for decades; he has enclosed footpaths and restricted access to popular open spaces. Local people are gathering evidence of use of green …read more

Fencing rejected on Snettisham Common

The Secretary of State for Environment has refused an application for fencing on Snettisham Common in north Norfolk. Snettisham Parish Council, which owns the common, had applied for retrospective consent for two lengths of fencing on the common, one around the top of a sandpit and the other between the car-parking area and the picnic tables. Because the fences are on common land they need the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The decision was delegated to the Planning Inspectorate. The Open Spaces Society, Natural England and four individuals objected to the application. The common is an attractive place for walkers and quiet recreation in the …read more

Saving open spaces and footpaths at Dorchester-on-Thames

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, and local correspondent for Oxfordshire, Chris Hall, will be speaking at a public meeting in Dorchester Village Hall on Tuesday 10th January as part of a local initiative to preserve footpaths and open access to the Dyke Hills and Days Lock area near Dorchester-on-Thames. Local resident, and OSS member Becky Waller, will also make a brief presentation. The meeting has been called in response to public notices posted by Oxfordshire County Council. Members of the public are invited to attend and share their own history and memories of the area, and help formulate a response to Oxfordshire County Council. If you are interested in helping to preserve footpaths and open spaces around Dorchester-on-Thames, please come …read more

Make 2017 the Year of the Village Green

We have called on local authorities and developers throughout England and Wales to make 2017 the Year of the Village Green, by voluntary registering their land as greens. The society urges developers to include registered village greens within their sites so that local people have a guaranteed green space for recreation which is preserved for ever.  It also encourages local authorities to register their own land so that even if it is sold, it is protected. The registration process, under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006, is simple.  The only requirements are to provide proof of ownership, obtain the consent of any leaseholder or chargeholder, complete a form and send it to the commons registration authority (county or unitary council). …read more

Happy new year

Our office is closed until 9.30am on Tuesday 3 January, but you will find lots of information on our website.  Please take a look. We wish all our website visitors a very happy christmas and new year.

Our new activist for Cheshire East

We have appointed Mr Chris Meewezen as our local correspondent for Cheshire East. Chris will be the society’s eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in the area and intervening as necessary. Chris, who lives at Wheelock near Sandbach, has until recently been footpath secretary for the Ramblers’ Congleton Group. He has initiated a project in the county to research historic ways and apply for them to be added to the official (definitive) map so that they are safe from destruction. Says Chris: ‘I am very pleased to be appointed as local correspondent for the Open Spaces Society. The open spaces and public paths in Cheshire East are at severe risk from development …read more

Margaret Bowdery, Berkshire path-campaigner

We are sorry to report the recent death of Margaret Bowdery, a long-standing member of the society who lived in Maidenhead. Margaret was so shocked at the state of the paths around Maidenhead when she moved here in 1964 that she called a public meeting and launched the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Group. She served as footpath secretary from the group’s inception in 1970 until she retired in 2013. During that time, she did a prodigious amount of work to secure a better deal for walkers. She ran working parties to clear obstructions and erect signposts and waymarks, she reported countless path problems to the councils and she fought development which threatened paths. She was responsible for the lovely Temple footbridge …read more

Our campaign to save green spaces

We have launched our Save Our Spaces campaign, to tackle the mounting threats to public open spaces throughout England and Wales. We have written to our members to seek their support for our work in defending green spaces from the double whammy of neglect and commercial exploitation. In London, the society has helped Save Battersea Park to stop the Formula E motor race from trashing Battersea Park, Wandsworth; it is fighting Brent Council’s plans to use its parks to generate income; it has helped to stop Westminster Council from renting the Victoria Embankment Gardens to a theatre company, and it hopes to join the Friends of Finsbury Park’s case in the court of appeal to stop the Wireless Festival which, …read more

Get your greens now, we urge Cambridgeshire residents

We have urged Cambridgeshire residents to act now and save their green spaces, by registering them as town or village greens before it is too late. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was giving the annual Octavia Hill Memorial Lecture in Wisbech on Sunday 4 December. Said Kate: ‘Octavia Hill was one of the early activists of the Open Spaces Society, long before she founded the National Trust. Octavia believed in saving green spaces as “open-air sitting rooms” and she would most certainly be arguing today that our open spaces in towns and villages should be protected for public enjoyment. ‘Local people can protect their spaces by applying to register them as town or village greens,’ Kate explained. ‘You need to …read more

We deplore proposed sale of Eastbourne’s downland, ‘the Crown Jewels’

Eastbourne Borough Council plans to sell more than 3,000 acres of its downland. This land is so treasured by the public that we have termed it ‘the Crown Jewels’. The society has sent a message of support to Keep Our Downs Public which is organising a public walk and rally* on Saturday (3 December) to protest at the threat to the downs and to call on the council to halt its plans. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The Open Spaces Society, which is Britain’s oldest national conservation body, deplores Eastbourne Council’s plans to flog off its magnificent downland. ‘The society was active in 1929 when the downs were acquired for the people, to be protected and treasured in perpetuity. …read more

Norfolk outdoor activists slam county council’s failure to maintain public paths

Outdoor activists in Norfolk are angry that Norfolk County Council trumpets that it is third out of 28 councils for ‘satisfaction with its highways and transport services’, while ignoring the fact that for the last three years Norfolk has been in the bottom three or four for ‘satisfaction with public rights of way’ and this year is 25th out of 28.. Public paths are highways in law just like any road. The survey is the annual National Highways and Transport Network Survey, by Ipsos MORI. The Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society are putting a question to the county council’s Environment, Development and Transport Committee (EDT) on Friday 11 November to ask: ‘A recent NCC Press Release announces “Podium position …read more

Forest of Dean Council rejects criminal sanctions on shepherds

We are delighted that Forest of Dean District Council’s has rejected the proposed measure to make so-called irresponsible shepherds into criminals. The council has decided, on the chairman’s casting vote, not to invoke its proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in the village of Bream, three miles north-west of Lydney in Gloucestershire.  The council wishes to address the problem of sheep wandering through the centre of the village, causing a nuisance. PSPOs were introduced in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 as a means of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in public places, defined in the orders as Restricted Areas. The society objected to the use of a PSPO at Bream, which it considered to be excessive and …read more

Defra’s ‘consultation’ on Natural England’s outdoor research is a sham

We have slated the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for its sham consultation into Natural England’s long-standing research on people and the natural environment. The results are published today (4 November) but Defra states that the changes have already gone ahead—before the consultation period even closed. The research, ‘Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment’ (MENE), is about the extent to which people visit the natural environment and what they do there. Since 2009 NE has undertaken MENE, a progression from the England Leisure Visits Survey.  From weekly interviews with about 800 respondents MENE produced robust evidence of the visits made by the population to the coast and countryside.  It provided data on the type of destination, …read more

Our local correspondent takes action over fenced off Lewes Racecourse bridleway

Chris Smith, our local correspondent for Brighton and Lewes, is taking action to claim the full width of a well-used and important bridleway on the South Downs near Lewes Racecourse buildings. Chris has reported that most of the bridleway past the racecourse buildings has been fenced off since June this year and comments: “The part of the bridleway affected is just north of the racecourse buildings on the route that runs between Mount Harry at one end and Lewes Town Centre or Lewes Prison at the other. It used to be very wide, up to 11 metres across, and walkers were able to keep straight ahead when going to and from the prison direction. In June 2016 the landowner erected …read more

Our new drive to rescue lost commons

We have launched a new drive to rescue common land which escaped registration 45 years ago.  We are advertising for a project officer to undertake research and submit applications for commons to be added to the registers. The society was a leader in registering common land when it became possible to do so under the Commons Registration Act 1965.  But the Act only allowed three years for applications and, for many reasons, a large number of commons were not registered.  It has recently become possible to register some of those lost commons, but only in nine areas of England, for a limited period.* Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary ‘We hope that our new project officer will be able to …read more

Friends of Panshanger Park campaign to save Repton’s Broadwater

Our member, The Friends of Panshanger Park, is campaigning to save Humphry Repton’s design for the Broadwater in Panshanger Park which is in danger of being destroyed for gravel extraction. Repton’s Broadwater at the western end of the park has been retained more or less intact but the owners, Lafarge Tarmac, now propose to destroy the lower Broadwater by breaching the narrow strip of land between it and the lagoon which has already been created to the south. A team of committed volunteers from The Friends are working to preserve the park but would welcome help and support in its ongoing campaign to save the Broadwater in its original design, and to encourage Lafarge Tarmac to honour their legal commitments …read more

We slate Network Rail’s blocked paths in Ely

We have complained to Cambridgeshire County Council about the unlawful closure of public paths by Network Rail. Our local correspondent, Alysoun Hodges, was dismayed to discover that Network Rail has closed footpaths in Ely where they cross the railway line. While Network Rail is carrying out a consultation on the closure of path crossings over railways lines in East Anglia, the public inquiry is not due to be held for another year and no decisions have been made. These paths are still highways in law. Alysoun has written to Cambridgeshire County Council, the highway authority, to complain that Ely footpaths 17 and 57, which cross the railway on either side of the River Lark to the east of Ely, have …read more

Ian Mercer, giant of the national-park movement, dies aged 83

Ian Mercer, the first Dartmoor National Park Officer and the first chief executive of the Welsh Government’s advisory body, the Countryside Council for Wales, has died aged 83 after a long illness. He was also the first warden of Slapton Ley Field Centre, the first county (Devon) conservation officer in England and Wales, and the first secretary general of the Association of National Park Authorities. Ian with his first wife Valerie established Slapton Ley Field Centre on the south Devon coast in 1959 and Ian was a founder member of the Devon Wildlife Trust (then the Devon Trust for Nature Conservation).  He was the catalyst for the creation of the Woodland Trust: when the late Ken Watkins of Ivybridge in …read more

We fight development on Norfolk common

We have objected to a planning application by the Woodlands Caravan Park to extend the caravan park on registered common land at Upper Sheringham in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Woodlands Caravan Park has used the common for this purpose for many years without obtaining the required consent from the Secretary of State for Environment, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 and previous legislation. Now it seeks permission for nine static-caravan pitches and seasonal siting of 30 touring caravans which are currently limited to 28 days in the year. The society has objected because the existing caravans and buildings, and the proposed additional ones, require ministerial consent in addition to planning permission. It has asked …read more

Cotswold path saved from closure

We have saved a 250-metre public footpath at Oddington from closure. Oddington is two miles east of Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire. The owner of Brans Cottage which adjoins the path applied to the highway authority, Gloucestershire County Council, to close the path. We were the sole objector. The extinguishment order was referred to the Planning Inspectorate for determination on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (The decision letter is here.) The landowner and the council claimed that access to the path at one end was on a busy road, the A436, and at the other it crossed a garden and patio close to the kitchen windows of Brans Cottage, and as a result the path …read more

Dismay at consent to deregister part of Barmby Moor village green

The Planning Inspectorate has approved an application from Barmby Moor Parish Council to deregister part of the village green, near Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The parish council wants to allow a private vehicular-access across the green to enable residential development to take place to the north. As the leading organisation concerned with the protection of village greens, we are notified of all such applications, and we were the sole objector. The Planning Inspectorate acted on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in determining the application under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. The parish council made a similar application last year, but then also offered replacement land. This was rejected …read more

Lake District heartland saved from commercial development

We are delighted that plans for the commercial development of Lake District common land have been rejected following a public inquiry. Jim Lowther of the Lowther Estate wanted to build a ‘visitor hub’ at White Moss, on the A591 near Grasmere in the Lake District National Park.  The development included an events venue, retail outlet, catering facility and bike hire, as well as suburbanisation of local footpaths. Because the works were sited on common land, the estate needed consent from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, as well as planning permission.  The Lake District National Park Authority had refused planning permission and the estate appealed.  The Planning Inspectorate …read more

Speak up for open spaces and parks in Brighton

Our local correspondent, Chris Smith, is urging Brighton residents to speak up for open spaces and parks such as Stanmer Park and the surrounding downland. Brighton Council wants to make cuts to the amount it spends on parks and open spaces. It is holding a consultation about this because it is legally obliged to. You can find the consultation here. The consultation affects not just parks but also open spaces, including the downland around Brighton and areas like Stanmer Park. Please take part. Although these things are often just a means of justifying a decision that has already been made, strong opposition has been known to turn things around. Many of the questions simply ask you where cuts can be …read more

PM back from alpine hike to walkers’ warning

When Prime Minister Theresa May returns from her hiking holiday in the Alps today (Wednesday) she will find a letter from the society. We express delight that the Prime Minister enjoys walking, but urge her to look into the state of public paths in England and Wales which, due to continuing local authority cuts, are deteriorating. Paths are being ploughed out, cropped, obstructed or becoming overgrown and the many authorities no longer have the staff to chase up those responsible. Says the society: ‘A small injection of funds would safeguard future walking and riding throughout our country. Post Brexit we need a regime of agricultural support which ensures that farmers and landowners are penalised when they illegally block public paths.’ …read more

We oppose excessive measures to curb Forest sheep

We have objected to the Forest of Dean District Council’s proposed measure to make so-called irresponsible shepherds into criminals. The council has invited comments on its plans to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in the village of Bream, three miles north-west of Lydney in Gloucestershire. The council wishes to address the problem of sheep wandering through the centre of the village, causing a nuisance. PSPOs were introduced in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 as a means of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in public places, defined in the orders as Restricted Areas. The society has objected to the use of a PSPO at Bream, which it considers to be excessive and oppressive, covering a wide …read more

Damaging track across Anglesey common given the go-ahead

We are disappointed that the Planning Inspectorate has approved an appeal against Anglesey Council’s refusal of a planning application for a new dwelling at the rear of Penmarian Mawr, Llangoed. The development is in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and includes a new access across registered common land. We were among the objectors to the application. The society argues that the access track, which already exists, would need consent under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 for works on common land if it is to have a sealed surface, otherwise it would be unlawful. There is also the question of whether the applicant has the right to drive across the common, which is normally an offence …read more

Happy centenary to vice-president Len!

Our vice-president Len Clark is 100 today, 19 August.  Our general secretary has written a blog in celebration and we have reproduced it below. Every blog I have so far written to celebrate a friend’s centenary has been posthumous.  This one is different.  Len Clark, loved and admired by the amenity movement, is 100 today—and very much still alive!  From his home in Farncombe, Surrey, he keeps his finger on the pulse and reads everything which comes his way. I visited him a few weeks ago with Fiona Reynolds, former director-general of the National Trust and author of The Fight for Beauty (which Len has read).  I arrived first and Len said to me:  ‘We run two seminars here, one …read more

Honorary life membership for Edgar and Audrey Powell

On reaching his eightieth birthday, Edgar Powell decided to stand down as our local correspondent in Worcestershire. He had fulfilled this role for 23 years, with dedication, determination and innovation, and with unstinting support from his wife Audrey. In recognition of their immense contribution to the society’s work and reputation, the trustees have awarded Edgar and Audrey honorary life membership of the society. Edgar continues in his role as vice-president of the society and we are grateful that he remains willing to give us help and advice on occasion. You can read more about Edgar here.

Threat to public paths in the Rochdale area

Our newly-appointed local correspondent for Rochdale, Yvonne Hunt, looks at the threat to public paths in her area, including the Rochdale Way.   The Rochdale Way and parts of its connecting network of paths are under threat by developers who do not seem to understand their importance. The Rochdale Way is a circular 45-mile (72-km) walking route around the borough of Rochdale which takes in some of its best scenery and most interesting buildings. The area covered includes Hollingworth Lake, Blackstone Edge on the Pennine Way, Watergrove Reservoir, Healey Dell, Knowl Hill, Naden Valley and much more. The way is broken down into sections as the majority of people would prefer not to walk the whole 45 miles in one …read more

Shropshire’s public paths are the arteries of the countryside

‘Shropshire’s public paths are the key to people’s enjoyment of this splendid county.’ So declared Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary when she opened Clun Carnival on Saturday 6 August. Kate continued: ‘Clun is a walking hub: a Walkers Are Welcome town on the Shropshire Way in the heart of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here the local economy benefits enormously from visitors who come to enjoy the magnificent countryside. ‘But in these days of austerity, we cannot depend on the hard-pressed Shropshire Council to ensure that our paths are kept in order. The council runs the Parish Paths Partnership scheme, involving about 65 parishes of which Clun is one, with about 650 volunteers. They help to maintain …read more

Dismay at development on Clapham Common

We are dismayed that the Secretary of State for Environment has given consent for a refurbished sports zone on Clapham Common. The applicant was Lambeth Council and the works comprise resurfaced courts, three-metre high fencing, floodlight columns and bicycle racks, benches and litterbins. Says Jeremy Clyne, our local correspondent for the London Borough of Lambeth: ‘While the Open Spaces Society acknowledges the need for sports facilities, we are alarmed that permission has been granted for this scheme. ‘The casework officer, Mr Richard Holland, recognises that the floodlighting and fencing “will cause some harm to the appearance of the common” and that the floodlighting is an “alien feature which will intrude to some extent into the night-time landscape”. Further he admits …read more

Our new activist for St Edmundsbury, Suffolk

Simon Bunn is our new local correspondent for St Edmundsbury Borough in Suffolk. Simon will be our eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in the district and intervening as necessary. Simon, who lives at Haverhill, works for Cambridge City Council as a Sustainable Drainage Engineer, and has been involved in flood-risk management for the past 20 years. He was part of the team that developed the award-winning Cambridge SuDS (sustainable drainage-systems) Design and Adoption Guide. He is a keen walker and a member of the Ramblers and the Stour Walking Group. He is also a proficient photographer. Says Simon: ‘I am very pleased to be appointed as local correspondent for the society. …read more

Public inquiry into damaging development on Lake District common land

We shall appear as an objector at a public inquiry on Tuesday (9 August) into plans by Jim Lowther to develop common land at White Moss near Grasmere in the Lake District National Park. The inquiry is being held at the Lake District National Park Authority offices, Murley Moss, Oxenholme Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 7RL, starting at 10am. The Lowther Estate wants to build a pretentiously-named ‘Welcome Hub’ at White Moss, on the A591 between Grasmere and Rydal, to include an events venue, retail outlet, catering facility and bike hire, as well as suburbanising the footpaths in the area. The public has the right to walk and ride over this common. Because the development affects common land, the estate must …read more

Amended guidance on obstructed rights of way in Wales

Our trustee and local correspondent, Peter Newman, has reported on his work to open up illegally obstructed rights of way in Powys: “There are many areas in Powys where the rights of way network in largely inaccessible because of large scale obstruction by illegal wire and barbed wire fences. Powys County Council is largely ineffective at opening up the bridleway and footpath network as it will only work in one parish in an area at a time, ignoring all the other communities. As a last resort, and in order to try and open up some routes for walkers and riders, I have been serving Section 130A notices on the council which is having some effect. The Welsh Assembly Government provided …read more

Unfinished business for national parks is complete at last

Today (1 August) 188 square miles, an area larger than the Isle of Wight, are embraced by the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks following a long campaign by amenity groups. The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, welcomes the inclusion of these fine landscapes in the two national parks. The Lake District is to be extended by 27 square miles, to incorporate areas such as Birkbeck Fells, Whinfell and part of the Lyth valley, while the Yorkshire Dales is expanded by 161 square miles to include parts of the Orton Fells, northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang. The two national parks almost touch at the M6, and the whole of the Howgill Fells is …read more

Welsh Government approves trashing of Mynydd y Gwair Common

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, has approved a controversial application by RWE Innogy UK Ltd to erect wind turbines and associated infrastructure on Mynydd y Gwair and adjoining commons north of Swansea. The society, represented by Clare Moseley, was among the many objectors at a public inquiry in February; this was about the developers’ proposal to construct works on common land and to swap areas of common land to enable the wind farm to be built. The 16 wind turbines will tear the heart out of this magnificent hilltop common. This is Swansea’s green lung, where people have the right to roam free, on foot and horseback. We argued that the proposed replacement common land …read more

Rejection of fencing on Westerdale Common

We are delighted that the environment secretary has rejected plans for more than half a mile of fencing on Westerdale Common in the North York Moors National Park. Last year the Graziers of High Blakey Moor applied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the Planning Inspectorate, for consent to fence the common. Westerdale Common is grazed by sheep and managed for grouse, and the fence was allegedly to prevent sheep straying. The fence would have been on open country between Danby and Rosedale. The minister’s consent is needed for works on common land. We objected because the fence would be an eyesore in the national park and would exclude walkers and riders from the …read more

Herefordshire path-defender wins Open Spaces Society’s national award

Peter Newman, formerly of Kington, Herefordshire, is the first-ever winner of our prestigious Eversley Award for Outstanding Personal Endeavour. Peter won the award for his 25 years of work on public paths with offenders on Community Payback. Peter collaborated with the Herefordshire Probation Service and Herefordshire Council to install about 800 stiles and gates, waymarks and fingerposts, and many notice-boards and footbridges, in 16 parishes in north-west Herefordshire. The routes which they improved included parts of Offa’s Dyke National Trail and the Mortimer Trail. The project ended with Peter’s recent move to Powys. Peter earned plaudits from Herefordshire Council and the probation service. Peter has also served as the Open Spaces Society’s local correspondent in Herefordshire for 32 years. The …read more

Claim our commons now, call from our vice-president

‘We have less than five years in which to claim our commons. The Open Spaces Society is leading the campaign to ensure that all common land is registered and available for the public to enjoy’ so declared our vice-president, Paul Clayden, at the society’s annual general meeting in London on Thursday (7 July). Throughout its 151 years, the Open Spaces Society has led the campaign to protect and record commons. ‘Common land is recorded on registers but, following registration in the late 1960s, much was thrown out with little regard for the public interest in commons,’ Paul explained. ‘The government has allowed the registers to be reopened so that people can claim much of the land which was struck out …read more

Quarry threat to Lincolnshire footpath

We have objected to plans by Breedon Aggregates to extend South Witham quarry in south Lincolnshire and destroy the route of a much-loved public footpath. The path runs between the villages of South Witham and Thistleton and is on the edge of the proposed quarry extension.  The developers want to move the path around three sides of a field, instead of on its direct inter-village route, and walkers will also suffer from the eyesore of the expanding quarry and the noise, smell and dust of the workings. The society has sent a strong objection to Lincolnshire County Council which is considering the application. This application will devastate the public footpath adjoining the site, and people’s enjoyment of it.  The footpath …read more

Phenomenal volunteer effort has saved two Welsh gems

We have congratulated the Elenydd Wilderness Hostels Trust on its phenomenal volunteer effort.  Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, spoke at the trust’s tenth anniversary lunch in Tregaron on Saturday (2 July). Said Kate: ‘Not only have the trust’s activists saved two hostels in the remote heart of Wales from closure and sale, but they have maintained and wardened them, so that they are enjoyable, safe and environmentally-friendly places to visit.  These hostels are the gems of mid-Wales.’ The two hostels, Ty’n Cornel and Dolgoch, belonged to the Youth Hostels Association and when it threatened to sell them ten years ago, objectors formed the Elenydd Trust to rescue them.  Now the annual bed-nights exceed those achieved by the YHA. Kate continues: …read more

Greater protection for public paths when land is sold

We welcome the introduction of new rules which ensure public paths are identified before property is sold.  The Law Society’s new conveyancing form CON29 comes into effect on Monday 4 July.  It will be compulsory for the local authority to report the existence of public rights of way across or adjoining land which is for sale, or any pending applications for paths to be recorded. With other groups representing rights-of-way users we have for many years lobbied the Law Society to amend the form to include this information, and we are delighted to have been successful. No longer will new property-owners be able to claim they did not know of the existence of a public path across their land.  In …read more

A big welcome to West Yorkshire

On Saturday 25 June a new long-distance path, the Welcome Way, will be opened in Otley, West Yorkshire.  The 28-mile circular walk is unique because it was created through the collaborative effort of three West Yorkshire Walkers Are Welcome towns: Otley, Burley-in-Wharfedale and Baildon, linking all three.  There is an additional nine-mile loop taking in the Walkers Are Welcome town of Bingley. The route will be launched by our general secretary Kate Ashbrook who is also patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network and vice-president of the Ramblers.  Kate wrote the foreword to The Welcome Way guidebook. The launch is at the start of the Otley Walking Festival, at 9am on Saturday 25 June 2016 at Otley Parish Church, …read more

Dereham, Norfolk, becomes a Walkers Are Welcome town.

We have congratulated the people of Dereham in Norfolk on achieving the status of a Walkers Are Welcome town. Dereham has joined the family of over 100 towns in England, Scotland and Wales which give an overt welcome to walkers and display the Walkers Are Welcome logo, showing that businesses are pleased to see walkers and recognise that they benefit the local economy, and that the paths are well cared for and there is public transport. The effort was led by our member Dereham Town Council through its footpath warden Ken Hawkins who has worked tirelessly to ensure that the public paths around the town are in good order. One of the criteria for Walkers Are Welcome status is that …read more

Moorside Fields, Lancaster are a village green

The High Court has ruled that Moorside Fields in south Lancaster are a village green. This means that they will be protected from development and can be enjoyed by the community by right for informal recreation. Local resident Janine Bebbington, acting for the Moorside Fields Community Group, applied to register five fields as a green in 2010, on the grounds that local people had enjoyed recreation there for at least 20 years. Lancashire County Council, which owns the land and is also the greens registration authority, objected to the application. Following a public inquiry, the inspector Alison Lea decided that four of the five fields should be registered. The council appealed to the High Court to overturn the decision and …read more

Battersea Park rescued from permanent motor-race circuit

We are delighted that the Formula E motor-race championship, which was approved by Wandsworth Council and set to continue every year in Battersea Park, will now only take place in 2016 with full reinstatement afterwards. James Jackson, whose judicial review of Wandsworth’s decision was due to be heard in court this week, has reached an agreement with the council over the future use of the park. The Open Spaces Society, with Battersea Park Action Group and other organisations and individuals, supported Mr Jackson because it deplores the abuse of the park for a substantial commercial event. We congratulate Mr Jackson and the Action Group on achieving this result which will ensure that the park is protected in future, as befits …read more

Better access to Ford Common, Dorset

We have helped to achieve an excellent outcome from SITA UK’s plans to extend its Binnegar Quarry, close to Puddletown Road three miles west of Wareham in Dorset. Because the development would affect Ford Common, owned by SITA, the company had to offer land in exchange for the common land it wished to quarry. SITA applied in September 2014 to deregister 197,000 square metres of the common, and offered in exchange 229,000 metres of land to the north of the A352 and to the east and west of Binnegar Lane (a mile east of Stokeford). This includes a small, new public car-park off Binnegar Lane. We were involved at an early stage and have worked hard throughout to get the …read more

The Fight For Beauty

In her newly-published book, The Fight for Beauty, Dame Fiona Reynolds, writes about the things that really make life worth living – a vision for our environment, our society and our future. Dame Fiona, a former Director-General of the National Trust, offers a path to a better future for us all. Her book can be purchased from Oneworld Publications and is available to members of the Open Spaces Society at a 20% discount by entering the code BEAUTY20 at checkout.   The Fight For Beauty is a remarkable book: passionate, persuasive and brave.’ Robert Macfarlane ‘A fascinating story told by someone who has lived and worked at the heart of the struggle for more than 30 years… This deeply inspiring …read more

Heritage Lottery funding for Kent’s Greensand Commons

We are delighted that Sevenoaks District Council has won funding for the Sevenoaks Greensand Commons Project in Kent. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £65,900 to help the council develop plans for increasing public access to the commons and improving them for wildlife. The council will then prepare a full bid to enable it to bring its plans to fruition. The society, with Kent Wildlife Trust, the National Trust, local councils and others, has supported the council’s plans over a number of years. The project focuses on the greensand commons of Sevenoaks and Westerham, two clusters of commons which are entwined with the heritage of all the people who have lived and worked alongside them, but which are now some …read more

Henley-on-Thames welcomes walkers

Henley-on-Thames Town Council in Oxfordshire is holding a public meeting to assess the public support for Henley to become a Walkers Are Welcome Town. The Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network is a community-led scheme celebrating towns throughout England, Scotland and Wales which have something special to offer walkers. Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook, who is also patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network, will speak at the public meeting on Wednesday 20 April, 5.30pm at Henley town hall. Says Kate: ‘Henley has much to offer walkers. Two long-distance paths, the Thames Path national trail and the Oxfordshire Way, pass through the town. It is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the hub of …read more

Our new Case Officer

We are delighted to welcome Hugh Craddock as our new Case Officer. Hugh will work alongside our present Case Officer, Nicola Hodgson, assisting members of the society on technical, legal and practical issues regarding commons, greens, open spaces and public paths. Hugh formerly worked for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its predecessor departments (1986-2016) to deliver access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, commons legislation though the Commons Act 2006, and recent reforms to town and village greens under the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013. Living in Epsom, Surrey, Hugh and his wife Debbie enjoy riding in the Surrey countryside, as well as walking further afield while on holiday. Hugh is a …read more

We launch our 12-point action plan for the new National Assembly for Wales

We have unveiled our 12-point action plan for the new National Assembly for Wales. We call on election candidates to lobby for a better deal for green spaces and public paths. Our Action Plan for Wales chimes with the seven principles in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Open spaces and paths are crucial to the economy, health and well-being of Wales, its history, culture and present-day living. If these places are in good heart, people will visit them for recreation and enjoyment and the local economy will benefit. We asks all candidates for the election on 5 May to commit themselves to the following action points. 1 Resources to sustain common land, town and village greens, open …read more

We fight plan to sacrifice ancient Hertfordshire route

We are fighting plans to move an ancient route to make way for development at Broxbourne School in Hertfordshire. Broxbourne School plans to demolish the old school and build a new academy, with 150 houses on the former school site. As part of the development it wants to divert the route of an old road, a drovers’ way, which runs in a direct line across the site. The options for the proposed diversion take people significantly out of their way, around three sides of a rectangle. Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘The history of our landscape and people’s movements through the ages is written in our ancient public-path network. If the line of this path …read more

We become common rightholder in Norfolk

We have become the proud owner of a right of common on land known as St Clement’s Common at Rushall near Diss in Norfolk. The society’s right is of ‘estovers’, ie to collect furze and bracken. The right was originally granted by the late landowner, Daphne Buxton, to a local member of the society, Maurice Philpot. Daphne Buxton wanted to protect the three-acre site from development. Once the right had been created, the land became a common in law (CL 443) and was registered in Norfolk County Council’s common-land register. Now the public has the right to walk here and the land is protected from encroachment. Daphne subsequently gave the common to Dickleburgh and Rushall Parish Council. Maurice has generously …read more

Help save Battersea Park from damaging motor-race

The Battersea Park Action Group is striving to save Battersea Park from three weeks of closure this summer for the Formula E car-racing series, with its associated noise and damage to this peaceful, Victorian, grade II*-listed park. The campaigners are seeking pledges for funding to support their legal challenge against Wandsworth Council which has granted planning permission for the event. The case has wider relevance because councils are increasingly promoting the use of public parks for noisy, damaging commercial events. The society is backing the campaigners. You can pledge your support here. Please alert anyone whom you think will be interested.

‘Don’t mess about with MENE’ we warn Defra

We have attacked plans by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to cut its long-standing research on people and the natural environment.  Defra is consulting on changes to the official statistics produced by its associated body, Natural England (NE). Since 2009 NE has undertaken its Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey (MENE), a progression from the previous England Leisure Visits Survey.  From weekly interviews with about 800 respondents MENE produces robust evidence of the visits made by the population to the coast and countryside.  It provides data on the type of destination, duration of visit, mode of transport, distance travelled, money spent, main activities, motivations for and barriers to visiting the countryside. Now Defra intends …read more

Local councils need to be proactive in saving their open spaces

We have called on town and parish councils in Hampshire to be proactive in saving and supporting their local open spaces in these times of austerity. Nicola Hodgson, our society’s case officer, was speaking at the annual conference of the Hampshire Association of Local Councils on the vital topic of saving and supporting open spaces. Says Nicola: ‘The funding for open spaces is severely threatened, because it is not protected in council budgets. Central government’s financial support to local authorities is being slashed, thereby reducing the councils’ capacity to support discretionary services such as open spaces. Many councils are likely to offer such land to parish and town councils through asset transfer. ‘We advise councils on how to protect their …read more

150th anniversary of Berkhamsted Common battle

On Sunday (6 March) with the National Trust we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the night raid to free Berkhamsted Common.  On 6 March 1866, the year after its foundation, the Open Spaces Society organised a trainload of brawny navvies to pull down Lord Brownlow’s illegal iron fences and reopen the common to the people.  In 1926 the common was acquired by the National Trust. Said Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘This was a great event in the society’s history, and showed the need for direct action to free the commons from unlawful enclosure and secure them as public assets. ‘Today the society continues to campaign against enclosures—but the new enclosures are more insidious and just as serious. ‘We are fighting …read more

We call for public access to Shropshire woodlands

On Saturday (5 March) we shall call for greater public access to Weston Heath Coppice, Old Coppice and Bury Wood, at Weston-Under-Redcastle in north Shropshire. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, will speak at a rally at Weston village hall, with Keith Ridland, vice-chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Shropshire branch. All are welcome to come, there is a walk through the woods at 11am and the speeches are at 2.30 pm. The woods have been used and enjoyed by the public for centuries but the new owner has put up gates and notices, some of which have been removed. This opposition to public enjoyment of the woods has sparked the claim of paths. Says Kate: ‘We congratulate the …read more

Battersea Park condemned to become motor racetrack for Formula E

We are dismayed that Wandsworth Council has granted planning permission for the construction of a ‘temporary’ motor-racing circuit, fencing, safety barriers and numerous other structures related to hospitality and broadcasting, for the proposed Formula E championship in July.  The event was staged for the first time last year. The society, Save Battersea Park, the London Wildlife Trust, London CPRE, the Friends of Battersea Park and the Wandsworth and Battersea Societies were among the organisations and individuals who had submitted 577 detailed letters of objection. The planning committee’s decision was seven votes to three, along party lines. The objectors argued that the event would lead to closure of the park, in whole or part, over many days in June and July; …read more

Our new book to celebrate village greens

We have published a new book, Village Greens, to celebrate the fascinating village greens of England and Wales.  It is written by our chairman, Graham Bathe. The book appears at a time when our green spaces have never been more threatened—by development, sale by local authorities, commercial abuse, neglect and lack of funding.  Yet paradoxically they have never been more important for informal recreation and games, and as a boost to our health and well-being in an increasingly urban world.  Our town and village greens, which have survived through history, have a special place in our culture. Says Graham: ‘There can be few more evocative images than the traditional village green.  Greens have been part of our history for over …read more

A generous bequest from Leslie Menzler

Our former local correspondent for Warwickshire, Leslie Menzler,  died in 2014 aged 93 with no surviving family.  He has left us a generous legacy. John Hall, our Coventry local correspondent writes of Leslie: Little is known about his early life but old family photos show Les living in Surrey with siblings and servants.  His father, F A A Menzler CBE was an actuary who became Chief Development and Research Officer of the London Transport Executive. As an adult, Les worked for many years for British Thomson Houston and GEC in Witton, Birmingham.  Google reveals that he has two patents to his name in the field of electrical engineering. After his retirement GEC recalled him as a research consultant—a man of …read more

We renew call for use of Local Green Space designation

We have called on the government to clarify the opportunities to win Local Green Space (LGS), and once again urged local authorities and communities to make use of the designation.  The society has responded to a consultation from the Department for Communities and Local Government on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework of March 2012, in which LGS is first mentioned. We are concerned that the criteria for designating land as LGS are vague and that there is no prescribed process for this, nor is there any requirement for a local authority to consider creating public access, or ensuring the land is managed properly.  The protection afforded to LGS is also unclear, and only stated to be similar to …read more

We oppose Goaloids on Shepherd’s Bush Common

We have objected to Hammersmith and Fulham Council to the proposed re-erection of the Goaloids structure on Shepherd’s Bush Common. While we did not object to this temporary commemoration of the Olympics, we do not believe that it should be a permanent fixture. This is a public open space in a conservation area, and the structure will not only dominate it and spoil it for many people, but it will also set a bad precedent. In any case, such a development on common land would need the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in addition to any planning permission.

Thwaite common fencing plan rejected

We are delighted that the Planning Inspectorate has rejected an application for fencing of Thwaite Common, near Erpingham, six miles south of Cromer. A year ago the Thwaite Common Management Committee, supported by North Norfolk District Council and Norfolk Wildlife Trust, applied to erect temporary fencing on three parts of the common, to enable the land to be grazed for long periods during the year. This was to improve the biodiversity of the common. The total length of fencing was to be 3,520 metres, more than two miles. Some of the fencing was already in place even though it did not have consent. We objected because the fencing made the open common into paddocks and it would restrict people’s right …read more

Multi-million pound Firle Footpath ploughed up for the third time

For the third time, the Firle Estate has ploughed up a path that it gets a huge subsidy to keep open, despite promises to the Open Spaces Society given three months ago that it would be opened. The path, which runs south from the Barley Mow Pub at Selmeston, is one of the reasons that the Firle Estate gets millions of pounds worth of Inheritance Tax relief. Until the Open Spaces Society publicised the situation, there was almost no way of telling where these lucrative paths were. After pressure, the Firle Estate waymarked the paths but then ploughed one of them up. We exposed this and the path was reinstated. Now the path has been ploughed up again and is …read more

Bridgend open spaces in peril

We have objected strongly to a string of planning applications from the housing association Valleys to Coast. These proposals threaten to destroy many open spaces around Bridgend, for example at Cefn Glas, Cefn Cribwr and North Connelly. For instance, within the estate at Cefn Glas, Valleys to Coast intends to eliminate the existing, well-established open space. This is contrary to the Health and Well-being commitments in Bridgend’s Corporate Plan. Says Dr Jay Kynch, a representative of the Open Spaces Society in South Wales: ‘I am saddened to see a housing association seek to destroy the well-designed open spaces which have been used by local residents for 70 years. These spaces should be protected in Local Development Plans, ideally as town …read more

Kington’s pioneer path-scheme comes to an end

After 25 years the pioneering Kington Footpath Scheme in Herefordshire has come to an end.  The scheme was invented and run by Peter Newman, our trustee and north-west Herefordshire local correspondent, with Herefordshire Council and the Hereford Probation Service. Offenders on Community Payback worked with Peter and the council to install about 800 stiles and gates, a similar number of waymarks and fingerposts, and many notice-boards and footbridges.  They have maintained countless footpaths, bridleways and byways in 16 parishes in north-west Herefordshire including parts of Offa’s Dyke National Trail and the Mortimer Trail. The scheme had its final day on Sunday 31 January when the workers erected a notice-board at Bollingham, three miles south of Kington, to hold a map …read more

Anglesey Council rejects plans for development in beauty spot

Anglesey Council has rejected a planning application for a new dwelling at Llangoed in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We opposed the plan for a new house at the rear of Penmarian Mawr because it would be an eyesore in this intimate, attractive landscape with its historic features and listed buildings, in an AONB which deserves the highest protection. We were particularly concerned that the new access to the property would be across registered common land, and the applicants, Mr and Mrs Wood, would therefore need consent from Welsh ministers as well as planning permission. There have been other cases where the council has granted planning permission for works on common land and the applicant has ignored …read more

Plan to sacrifice Lyde Green common withdrawn

We are delighted that NORFT Ltd has withdrawn its controversial plan to sacrifice Lyde Green Common near Pucklechurch, north-east of Bristol, and replace it with inferior land some distance away. NORFT, the owner of the common, had applied to the Planning Inspectorate to deregister and exchange Lyde Green. The Open Spaces Society, Emersons Green Town Council and others objected. They considered that the proposed replacement land was of inferior quality to the common to be taken. Says Chris Bloor, our local correspondent for South Gloucestershire: ‘We congratulate NORFT Ltd for withdrawing its application. The common will become a major resource for those who will occupy the new housing surrounding it. ‘We believe that the unpleasant fencing at the west end …read more

New freedom to roam on Cissbury’s downland

Worthing Borough Council has dedicated its land at Mount Carvey and Tenants Hill for public access and enjoyment. It is close to the ancient Cissbury Ring, on the top of the downs above Worthing in the South Downs National Park in West Sussex. The decision follows a six-year campaign led by the Worthing Downlanders (formerly the Stop the Cissbury Sell Off group). After a well-attended public rally in November 2009, at which we were one of the speakers, the campaigners persuaded Worthing Borough Council to back down on the proposed sale of public downland. Now, at last, the council has agreed to dedicate land for public access. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We congratulate the Worthing Downlanders for their …read more

Lancashire County Council threatens to abandon its countryside service

We are dismayed that Lancashire County Council has said that it will cease to provide and maintain its countryside sites in two years’ time. We have responded to the council’s consultation on the future of the countryside services beyond April 2018. Of course we understand that the council faces massive cuts, stated to be £262 million over the next five years, but we consider it a false economy to stop investing in the country parks and green spaces. Wycoller and Beacon Fell country parks are the council’s flagships, and there are numerous other sites, close to urban areas, which provide health and happiness to thousands of people. We believe that if these cease to be available and maintained it will …read more

Threat to Cornish bridleway

We have objected to an application to station 91 residential-park dwellings on land close to a public bridleway and common land, at Quintrell Downs, Colan, north Cornwall. The new residents would have to drive along the bridleway to gain access to the A392 road to the north. We oppose the development because it will generate an unacceptable level of vehicular traffic on this quiet bridleway. This will adversely affect the enjoyment and safety of walkers, riders and cyclists, all of whom have the legal right to use this route. Furthermore the bridleway has also been registered as common land, which means that any surfacing would require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment under section 38 of the …read more

Safe crossings for Poole pedestrians

We have helped secure four crossings over the busy Shore Road at Poole, to enable walkers to get safely from the beachfront to the harbourside, using a popular footpath. These were achieved by our local correspondents Harry and Aimee Alexander who pursued the campaign for ten years. Says Harry: ‘After more than a decade of representation to Poole Council we are delighted with the addition of a crossing over Shore Road at Poole, linking Allington footpath 85 with the Harbour Promenade to Sandbanks. We are also pleased to have won three other safe passages across this busy highway.’

We fight damaging development in New Forest National Park

We are opposing an ugly solar ‘farm’ in the New Forest National Park. Last year the national park authority rejected a planning application from MTS Exbury Solar Ltd for a solar farm on nine hectares of land east of Lepe Farm, Exbury. The applicants have appealed and the hearing is to be held at Lymington Town Hall on Wednesday 13 January at 10am. We object most strongly to this despicable proposal and congratulate the national park authority on its resolute stance. The development would conflict with the purposes of the national park, which are to protect the natural beauty and promote the enjoyment of its special qualities. There is nothing natural about a solar farm and it would be a …read more

Ministers’ neglect threatens vital common land

We are calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and on the Welsh Government to finish the job on common land.  Ten years ago the Commons Act 2006 provided for accurate and up-to-date registers of commons and commons councils to manage the commons.  But the Act has not yet been fully brought into force, due to lack of resources. These steps are essential if commons are to be protected against development and filching by neighbouring property-owners and to benefit fully from agri-environment schemes. The aim of the Commons Act (part 1) is to ensure that the common-land registers, created by the Commons Registration Act 1965, are accurate and up to date.  Part 1 has only been fully …read more

Our 150th anniversary year

We have had plenty of activities to celebrate our 150th anniversary year, as Britain’s oldest national conservation body. Here are some highlights. Every day we have celebrated an event in our long history with our Tweet of the Day.  These are listed here. We published two books, Saving Open Spaces and Common Land.  A third, Village Greens, is on the way for publication in spring 2016.     In March our general secretary spoke at the People’s Anniversary Walk, organised by our member, the Friends of Panshanger Park, to highlight the need for greater access to this historic park between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. She also spoke at the AGM of the Heath and Hampstead Society in June, recalling …read more

Our fight against beauty-spot wind turbines in Powys

We have sent a further objection to plans for seven 110-meter-high wind-turbines in the quiet countryside five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys.  Hendy Wind Farm Ltd has put in minor amendments to its application to Powys County Council for planning permission. The amendments do not mitigate any of our concerns.  The turbines will still desecrate an area of natural beauty and high landscape value, which is enjoyed by residents and visitors. These vast turbines would dominate this very special and splendid landscape and would destroy the view of and from the magnificent Llandegley Rocks.  There are several public paths crossing the area and users of these routes would be severely affected by the sight and noise of the turbines.  …read more

Anglesey Council plans to dispose of public park

We are dismayed that the Isle of Anglesey County Council has published plans to dispose of Holyhead Park in South Stack Road. The public has six weeks, until 19 January 2016, in which to object to the plans. Thereafter, the council will invite expressions of interest for two weeks until 2 February, from anyone wishing to take over the running of the park. We shall object to the plans to dispose of the park, because it is an important asset to the people of Holyhead and the society considers that the council has a duty to further the well-being of its community. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘We are dismayed that Anglesey Council plans to dispose of this important …read more

Gigantic wind-turbines rejected on Lake District boundary

South Lakeland District Council has rejected plans for a giant wind-farm on common land at Kirkby Moor, Cumbria, on the edge of the Lake District National Park. The council’s planning committee refused, by nine votes to two, the application from the energy company RWE Innogy UK Ltd.  This was to replace twelve wind turbines with six which would be over two and a half times the height of the existing ones (ie 115 metres blade-tip height instead of 42 metres). We were among the many objectors who included the Friends of the Lake District, Ramblers and various parish councils.  The society was concerned not only that the development would be an eyesore and an intrusion in this splendid landscape, but …read more

Mixed news from Defra

Yesterday’s announcement of the spending review 2015’s effect on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs contained mixed news. The good news is that the funding for national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and public forests is protected. National parks ‘will be given legal flexibilities to allow them to build sustainable, long-term revenue streams and boost growth in rural areas’. We congratulate the Campaign for National Parks, of which we are a member, for its brilliant campaign to secure this result. The bad news is that there are to be resource savings of 15 per cent in real terms by 2019-21. We do not know what this means for public paths and access, common land, and the many …read more

We help to save wonderful Wenvoe footpath

We are pleased to have helped our member, the Wenvoe Residents’ Action Group, to save a wonderful footpath at Wenvoe, in the Vale of Glamorgan. Earlier this year the Vale of Glamorgan Council consulted interested parties on a plan to move Wenvoe footpaths 21 and 22 in connection with a development to the west of Port Road. Wenvoe footpath 21 is a historic route which runs from east of Burdonshill north to Wenvoe Wood and thence into Wenvoe. It is shown on maps going back to the late nineteenth century. The society, with the Wenvoe Residents’ Action Group and others, fought the proposal to move footpath 21, which runs across open fields with fine views, to a route next to …read more

Campaigner Kate wins ‘Outdoor Personality of the Year’ award

Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook has won The Great Outdoors magazine’s Outdoor Personality of the Year award, topping a shortlist of 11 which included mountaineers Sir Chris Bonington and Alan Hinkes, and fellrunner Jos Naylor.  Kate was nominated as ‘a knowledgeable and fearless campaigner for our rights in the great outdoors’. Kate is also president of the Ramblers, patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns network and a trustee of the Campaign for National Parks and the Dartmoor Preservation Association. Says our chairman, Graham Bathe: ‘It is a fitting tribute that Kate should be given such recognition.  She works tirelessly to ensure that our rights in the countryside, and in particular our access to paths, greens and common land, are …read more

Circuit of Wales racetrack to drive through common land

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, has approved the deregistration and exchange of a square mile of common land, to enable the Circuit of Wales mega-motorsport development to be built on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales. The application from the Heads of the Valleys Development Company to swap common land was heard at an eight-day public inquiry in March.  We joined the Brecon Beacons Park Society, British Horse Society, Gwent Wildlife Trust and other objectors in arguing that the proposed seven areas of land offered in exchange were inferior and did not compensate for the loss of the extensive Trefil Las and Twyn Bryn-March Common near Ebbw Vale in …read more

Dismay at Derbyshire’s cuts to the rights-of-way service

We are disappointed that Derbyshire County Council is likely to go ahead with its proposed cuts to the rights-of-way budget, following a controversial consultation in the summer. These cuts could result in the loss of up to three staff and the extension of target times for resolving path complaints, so that it could take up to six months to deal with a problem. Our local correspondent for South Derbyshire, Barry Thomas, says: ‘A reporter on Radio Derby last week stated that Derbyshire County Council has not yet shared the results of the consultation with the full council, and decisions have not been made about the rights-of-way budget. Yet at the same time we had an email stating that the usual …read more

New funding initiative to create ‘pocket parks’

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced a new programme that supports communities to work with local authorities and other partners to establish a pocket park. Pocket Parks are envisaged as small areas of inviting public space where people can enjoy relief from the hustle and bustle of city streets DCLG is inviting proposals that provide a pocket park that the community welcomes, needs and values in any shape and form. They have adopted the definition of a Pocket Park used by the Mayor of London when he supported the establishment of 100 sites from 2012-2015. “A Pocket Park is a piece of land of up to 0.4 hectares (although many are around 0.02 hectares, the size …read more

Multi million pound Firle footpath ploughed up again

Yet again, the Firle Estate has ploughed up a path for which it gets a huge subsidy to keep open. The path, which runs south from the Barley Mow Pub at Selmeston, is one of the reasons that the Firle estate gets millions of pounds worth of Inheritance Tax relief.   Until the Open Spaces Society publicised the situation, there was almost no way of telling where these lucrative paths were. After pressure, the Firle Estate waymarked the paths, but then ploughed one of them up. We exposed this and the path was reinstated. Now the path has been ploughed up again and is more or less impassible as you can see from the picture. How did this come about? …read more

We back new vision for Cambrian Mountains

‘We need a new vision for the Cambrian Mountains to ensure their protection.’  So said Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the Cambrian Mountains Society in Llandrindod Wells on Saturday (31 October). ‘It is outrageous that these splendid, inspiring landscapes have no overall protection and have to rely on piecemeal landownerships and bitty European designations for their survival.  The mountains are part of the unfinished designation business of the 1950s.* ‘The Cambrian Mountains in the heart of Wales should have been designated as a national park in the mid-seventies, but were rejected at the last stage with no explanation.  Now is the time to revive the campaign to designate the mountains as an …read more

The Great Outdoors Personality of the Year award

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine’s Personality of the Year award.  She has been nominated as ‘a knowledgeable and fearless campaigner for our rights in the great outdoors’. Kate has been in post for 31 years.  She is also president of the Ramblers, a trustee of the Campaign for National Parks and the Dartmoor Preservation Association, and patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network. She has campaigned for commons, greens, open spaces and paths for most of her life. We are pleased that the Ramblers’ Big Pathwatch has been nominated for the Campaign and Campaigner of the Year award. You can vote online here.    

Castle Acre Green, Swansea, becomes a new village green

We are delighted that 2.9 acres of green space and woodland known as Castle Acre Green, Norton, in the village of Mumbles near Swansea, has been registered as a village green by the commons registration authority of the City of Swansea. This means that local people have established their legal right to continue to use the land for recreation in perpetuity. The Friends of Castle Acre Green, a member of the Open Spaces Society, applied to register the land as a village green in September 2012. The site had been bought by Swansea Council, as part of a larger area of 10.32 acres in 1965. Originally the 2.9 acres was mainly designated for highway construction and much of the remainder …read more

Dismay at decision for Beverley Westwood Common

We are dismayed that the environment secretary has approved a land swap to allow a cycle track and footway to be driven across the historic Beverley Westwood Common in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The society was among the objectors at a public hearing held on 13 October. East Riding of Yorkshire Council proposed to construct a footway and cycle track on the common and was required by law (section 16 of the Commons Act 2006) to provide suitable land in exchange. The council offered the site of the former Fishwick Mill on the east side of the common. The matter was determined on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by planning inspector Mr …read more

Lakes and Dales park extensions will protect precious landscapes

We are overjoyed that the government has today announced that it will extend the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, to include land which should never have been excluded, much of  it common land. The environment secretary Liz Truss has confirmed the designations made by Natural England in 2012, following a public inquiry in 2013.  The designations ensure protection for some of our most splendid landscapes, much of which is common.  The land to be added to the Yorkshire Dales National Park includes parts of the Orton Fells, northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang, while the Lake District will incorporate such areas as Birkbeck Fells, Whinfell and part of the Lyth valley. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘This completes …read more

We mourn the death of Michael Meacher

We are sad to learn of the death of Michael Meacher, the veteran MP for Oldham West and Royton.  Michael helped to win the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, giving the public greater freedom to roam on open country and common land in England and Wales. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary who was heavily involved in lobbying for the legislation: ‘Michael Meacher was a very un-Blairite left-winger.  As Minister of State for the Environment he faced down the reluctant Blair, who wanted to appease the landowners, and pushed through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000. ‘This began the process of opening uncultivated land throughout England and Wales to the people for recreation.  That process …read more

Only ten years left to record our public paths

‘There are only ten years left before we could lose thousands of public highways.’  So warned Phil Wadey, our vice-chairman, at a meeting organised by the Gatliff Trust in London on 24 October.  Phil is an expert in recording public paths on the definitive maps of rights of way. Says Phil: ‘On 1 January 2026, old footpaths and bridleways that are not recorded on the council’s official map of rights of way may cease to carry public rights.  This is because the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 contained a provision which will extinguish certain paths which existed before 1949 and have not been recorded on the official maps. ‘This raises the prospect of stiles being changed into fences, …read more

150th anniversary of midnight raid to free Berkhamsted Common

The National Trust is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the great battle to save Berkhamsted Common, Herts.  The common was freed from enclosure on the night of 6 March 1866. The National Trust is staging an exhibition and commemorative walk on its Ashridge Estate.  The exhibition opens on Saturday 10 October at the visitor centre and runs until 31 March 2016, admission free. The Open Spaces Society, then the Commons Preservation Society, had been founded only the year before Lord Brownlow erected three miles of iron fencing, six feet high, around part of Berkhamsted Common.  The society organised a trainload of navvies (tough men) to walk from Tring Station to the common in the middle of the night to fell …read more

We fight loss of Lyde Green common on Bristol’s fringe

We have objected to plans from NORFT Ltd to sacrifice Lyde Green Common near Pucklechurch, north-east of Bristol, and replace it with inferior land some distance away. NORFT has applied to the Planning Inspectorate to deregister and exchange Lyde Green. We have objected because the proposed replacement land is of inferior quality to the common to be taken. Says Chris Bloor, our South Gloucestershire local correspondent: ‘We are dismayed that NORFT Ltd, owner of the 20-acre Lyde Green common, proposes to deregister it. The grounds are that, allegedly, there is a health and safety risk to the commoners’ stock in view of the new development nearby, but that does not sound to us a good ground for deregistering common land. …read more

We fight Disneyfication of Lake District commons

We have objected to applications to develop common land at White Moss near Grasmere in the Lake District National Park. The Lake District National Park Authority has refused two planning applications from Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale who is custodian of the family’s estate. The Lowther Estate wants to build a pretentiously-named ‘Welcome Hub’ at White Moss, on the A591 between Grasmere and Rydal, to include an events venue, retail outlet, catering facility and bike hire, as well as suburbanising the footpaths in the area. It has appealed against the refusal of planning permission and has also, belatedly, applied for consent to site this development on Grasmere and Loughrigg Commons, to which we have objected. We …read more

Fence permitted on limestone beauty-spot

We are dismayed that the Planning Inspectorate has permitted an application from the Farleton Knott Commoners’ Association for a 550-metre fence along the west side of Puddlemire Lane across Farleton Knott common, in Cumbria, for a period of ten years. This limestone hill is of outstanding natural beauty and interest for its geology and flora and fauna, and the public has the right to walk there. The application was for works on common land under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 and we objected because the fence will interfere with people’s enjoyment of this open landscape. The commoners want to introduce grazing and prevent unauthorised access by mountain and trail bikes. Says Ian Brodie, our Cumbria representative: ‘The Open …read more

Reprieve for Cothill Pitt open space

We are pleased that the developer Martin Rowland has withdrawn his controversial plans to build on open space known as Cothill Pitt, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. We backed our member Save Cothill Pitt in fighting the plans. The site is open land within the green belt, which is greatly used and enjoyed by local people for informal recreation. The development would have damaged the green character of the site, which is a haven for wildlife and a valuable green lung, with no benefit to the local community. Says our case officer Nicola Hodgson: ‘We are greatly relieved that the applicant has seen sense and withdrawn the proposal. Local people were up in arms and we were pleased to support them …read more

Unlawful works on common land at Epsom

We have deplored the unlawful construction of a cycle track on registered common land at Fair Green beside West Hill, Epsom in Surrey. Contractors for Crest Nicholson, Galliford Try and Linden Homes have built a cycle track on the common, pre-empting the organisations’ application for consent for the works. We objected to the application. It argued that the cycle-path does not have to be built on unspoilt common land; there is plenty of space within the parking area on West Street. The Secretary of State’s policy guidance on applications for consent for works is that if there is a better solution she may refuse consent. We are dismayed that the applicants have forged ahead without waiting for consent. If the …read more

Lake District threatened by the largest planned electricity infrastructure project in the UK

The Open Spaces Society is one of a number of organisations* that are supporting Friends of the Lake District’s campaign against National Grid’s proposals for a 24km long powerline using 50m tall pylons in the west of the Lake District National Park. This would be a huge infrastructure project anywhere in the UK, but to have this length of overhead line running through one of England’s most unique, important and well-loved landscapes would be damaging in the extreme to the character of the Lake District National Park. National Grid have said that, because there is already a line of pylons in the area, new pylons would not be damaging to the landscape; however, the proposed pylons will be nearly double …read more

We condemn plan to restrict access to justice

We have condemned proposals from the Ministry of Justice to increase the cost to members of the public who apply to the magistrates’ court in civil cases. The proposal is to increase the costs by 10 per cent*. The society says that this will hit those people who are defending the public interest in public paths. At present, a member of the public can apply to the magistrates’ court to require a laggard council to carry out its duty to defend people’s rights to use footpaths and bridleways. If the council has failed to deal with an illegal obstruction, a member of the public can ask the magistrates to intervene. This is a civil action, but the person is acting …read more

United Utilities withdraws controversial Lake District fencing scheme

We are delighted that United Utilities (UU) has withdrawn its controversial application for 10 kilometres of fencing on common land above Thirlmere in the heart of the Lake District National Park. A public inquiry was due to open on 17 November. UU wants to carry out further consultation about its plans in the hope of identifying viable alternatives to a fence. The Open Spaces Society, Friends of the Lake District, the Ramblers, the Foundation for Common Land, the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners and the Wainwright Society were among the many objectors to the scheme which threatened to degrade the wilderness of the national park. UU claimed the fence was needed to reduce the grazing and prevent contamination of the water …read more

Protest over Clapham Common quagmire

Clapham Common has again been left resembling a sea of mud following the latest huge music event. We are writing to Lambeth Council to protest. A vast swathe of the common has again been devastated, only a year after the same area of the common was left like a quagmire by the same Lock N Load South West Four festival. The council, which owns and manages the common, is already subject to severe criticism because it allowed enormous structures to be built on the common, which the society says require special permission from the Secretary of State for the Environment. Lambeth is also being challenged over the size of areas of the common being enclosed for such major events. An …read more

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 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 units on Bodmin Moor. It will authorise those …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.