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Conditional welcome to commencement of common-land provisions in Wales

We have welcomed the commencement of further provisions about common land in Wales—but have lamented the Welsh Government’s failure to communicate. The Welsh Ministers have made a commencement order(1) to bring into force provisions in the Commons Act 2006 about freedom of access to information in the commons registers, and about obtaining official copies of the registers. The order also corrects a mistake made by the Welsh Ministers earlier this year, that meant that new provisions for applications to register and deregister common land in Wales were defective where an application was granted, because they did not enable a local authority to amend its registers held under the Commons Registration Act 1965(2). Commenting on the commencement order, Hugh Craddock, one …read more

Court of Appeal rules against quiet enjoyment of London’s parks

We are disappointed that the Court of Appeal has upheld the use of London parks for major ticket-only entertainments. In its judgment today,(1) the court finds that Haringey borough council acted lawfully in hiring out part of Finsbury Park for the purposes of a major entertainment event, the Wireless Festival, in 2016.(2) The court rejected the claims of the appellant, the Friends of Finsbury Park, and of the society (which received permission to be heard by the court), that the council’s primary duty was to hold the park in trust for public recreation, and that facilitating a major event, to the exclusion of the public generally, was a breach of that trust. The court found that section 145 of the …read more

Planning for the right homes in the right places

Working through Wildlife and Countryside Link, the society and eight other organisations including The Woodland Trust and The Wildlife Trusts have supported a response to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the consultation, Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places. We believe the government’s ambition for housing must include the provision of access to local green space and consideration of green infrastructure benefits for health and wellbeing. We urged that there must be no weakening of environmental protection in the forthcoming review of the National Planning Policy Framework.

We join fight to save Nutsford Vale park, Manchester

We have urged Manchester City Council to reject the proposed development of Nutsford Vale, a council-owned park on the borders of Longsight, Levenshulme and Gorton in south-east Manchester. We have backed our member, the Friends of Nutsford Vale, in opposing a proposed school building, sports hall, car-park and other facilities. The development, occupying about 5.5 hectares, would smother nearly half the total area of the park. It would also involve the felling of nearly 3,000 mature trees to make way for the buildings. The trees are important in fending off pollution and flooding. We are pleased to help the Friends of Nutsford Vale to fight this pernicious plan. This open space is of immense value to local people for refreshment …read more

Welsh Government consultation on town and village greens

The Welsh Government issued a consultation on town and village greens on 23 October 2017. It is a highly technical document which deals with the proposed content of regulations which will be required to commence sections 52, 53 and Schedule 6 of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015. The regulations will govern the procedure to enable landowners to deposit a statement to bring to the end any period of use for recreation. However it will still be possible, where an applicant can satisfy the criteria to register land as a town or village green, to apply within a specified period following the deposit of a notice. OSS will be submitting a response and, if any members wish to send comments to …read more

Local councils have a vital role in creating and caring for open space

‘Local councils have a vital role to play in creating sustainable communities—and an important means of achieving this is through the creation and care of open space.’ So said our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, at the National Association of Local Councils’ annual conference in Milton Keynes on Tuesday 31 October. Nicola led a workshop, giving top tips on how local councils can manage their open spaces. Nicola continued: ‘We urge local councils to work with their communities to record land as Local Green Space in the local or neighbourhood plan. Local Green Space can be any land which is demonstrably special to a community, and designation by the local authority may offer some protection. ‘We also suggest that councils consider …read more

Our new book to celebrate public paths

We have published a new book, Public Paths, which is an exploration of the origins of ancient tracks, droves, bridleways and footpaths which make Britain unique. It is written by our chairman, Graham Bathe. At a time of austerity, the opportunity to use and enjoy public paths has never been more important. Walking is the most popular form of recreation in Britain. Over 80 per cent of British people walk at least once a week. In the English countryside, walkers voluntarily spend £6 billion a year, supporting nearly a quarter of a million jobs. Enjoyment of the countryside is dependent on the network of rights of way that spread across the landscape, relics of a time when these were the …read more

We fight plan to grab Amble Braid village green for car-park

We have objected to Northumberland County Council’s plan to swap 4,400 square metres (just over one acre) of Amble Braid village green for a similar-sized but inferior area to the south. The society helped local people to register the land as a village green in 2009. Then it was under threat of a supermarket on the adjoining land. As a village green, the land is protected from development and local people have rights of recreation there. Northumberland County Council, the landowner, has applied under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006 to remove a strip of land from the heart of the village green and replace it with part of the recreational area north of The Gut. The Open Spaces …read more

The Great Outdoors Extra Mile award

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine’s The Extra Mile award. She has been nominated for her work at the Open Spaces Society and the Ramblers. Kate has been in post at the OSS for 33 years. She is also vice-president and vice-chair 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. You can vote online here.

Newly-registered common at Brockdish, Norfolk

We have congratulated our member, Brockdish Parish Council in south Norfolk, for restoring a lost common to the common-land register. The council showed that an area of land on the south-west side of Common Lane had been wrongly omitted from the common-land register when the adjoining common was registered as CL125 in 1968 under the Commons Registration Act 1965. The mistake was made because of the lack of clarity on the plan which accompanied the original application for Brockdish Common, so only part of the land was registered. There was no provision to correct mistakes in the registers until part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 came into effect in England in 2015. Brockdish Parish Council seized this opportunity to …read more

Rural payments agency must disclose cross-compliance obligation

We are delighted that the information commissioner has forced the rural payments agency to disclose information about subsidy entitlement. The society asked the agency under freedom of information legislation to disclose whether farmland in West Sussex was being claimed for subsidy under the basic payments scheme, and whether it was subject to cross-compliance.(1) The agency refused to provide any information, and declined to state whether it held any information at all. The society asked the information commissioner to intervene.(2) It said that, as the Government already publishes information about how much subsidy farmers receive(3), and whether subsidy is claimed on particular land under agri-environment management agreements,(4) it was absurd that the agency refused to say on which land basic payment …read more

Signed, sealed, delivered! Public footpaths signposted in memory of Gloucestershire benefactor

Gloucestershire County Council’s public rights of way team has recently completed the replacement and repair of numerous footpath signs in parishes around Cheltenham. These include Andoversford, Sevenhampton, Stoke Orchard and Winchcombe. The work was made possible by the Bradbury Bequest, a fund which was established in 1959 on the death of Herbert Lucas Bradbury, a local benefactor. He left £1,500 in trust for the erection and maintenance of signposts on public footpaths within a six-mile radius of Cheltenham Post Office, which was at that time located in The Promenade. Originally the fund was administered by the Open Spaces Society, and the Gloucestershire Ramblers, led by the late Tony Drake, arranged for the signposts to be erected. In 2013 the society …read more

Blackbushe Airport must remain part of Yateley Common

We have objected to the application by Blackbushe Airport Ltd to remove the common-land status from the airport on Yateley Common in Hampshire. The post-war history of Yateley common is one of conflict between the peaceful use of the common for recreation and nature conservation, and the retention and expansion of wartime aerodrome facilities. Yateley common, including much of the aerodrome, was rightly registered as common land in March 1975 under the Commons Registration Act 1965 by Commons Commissioner Baden Fuller but, before and after, the aerodrome has continued to be developed notwithstanding its status as common land, and commoners’ rights to use it for grazing and other purposes. Now, almost half a century after its registration, Blackbushe Airport Ltd …read more

We welcome Welsh Government’s proposals for greater access rights

We are delighted that the Welsh Government is proposing an increase in public-access opportunities in Wales. The society has responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation, ‘Taking Forward Wales’s Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’. Chapter 4 is about access to the outdoors. We welcome proposals for legal access to coast and cliff and for greater access to riverbanks and lakesides. We have urged the Welsh Government to consider extending access to other land types, provided there is no adverse effect on the existing system of public paths. The Welsh Government proposes to develop an all-Wales digital map of access. The society would like to see commons and town and village greens included. The society strongly supports the proposal to repeal the …read more

Walkers urge Wycombe councillors not to close important town-path

We are dismayed that Wycombe District Council officers are recommending to the High Wycombe Town Committee on 3 October that it should support the closure of part of a valuable footpath in the town centre. This is despite objections from influential organisations representing walkers. The Town Committee makes a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Communities, Councillor Graham Peart. The council wants to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on the path, which would close it to public use. It claims that the path is subject to crime and anti-social behaviour. The path is a short cut between Desborough Avenue and West End Street. Last summer the council carried out a consultation exercise and there were strong objections from …read more

We call for duty on local authorities to protect parks and green spaces

We are concerned that public parks are increasingly threatened by commercial activities and that the government’s response to the House of Commons’ Communities and Local Government Select Committee report into the future of parks and green spaces does not adequately address this. The society had argued to the committee that it should recommend a statutory duty on local authorities to provide, monitor, manage and maintain parks and open spaces. When the committee declined to adopt this recommendation, the society called on the government to go further and impose such a duty. The society is concerned about the increase in the number of events being held in parks and the adverse impact these have on local communities. While government has agreed …read more

Appeal against refusal of wind turbines on mid-Wales beauty spot

We have urged the Planning Inspectorate to reject plans for seven wind-turbines in the beautiful countryside around Llandegley, five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys. The application, first submitted by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd in 2014, was refused by Powys County Council’s planning committee on Thursday 27 April. The developers have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and there is likely to be a public inquiry. The society has revealed that if the turbines are built they may be in breach of inclosure awards and therefore unlawful. The land on which it is proposed to construct at least four of the seven turbines and their associated development is part of an area inclosed in 1885 by inclosure awards for Llandegley Rhos …read more

We oppose development on Cornish common

We have objected to a proposed holiday-development on registered common land near Cardinham, about four miles north-east of Bodmin in Cornwall. The land is within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on Bodmin Moor. Other objectors are the Ramblers and Cornwall Council’s own Commons Registration Officer. Dr and Mrs Smirthwaite of Moor Cottage, Cardinham, have applied to Cornwall Council for planning permission for a holiday-let development comprising five ‘deluxe moorland retreat units with associated development and landscaping’. The development site is registered common land where the public has the right to walk. The development will have an adverse effect on the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the nearby Area of Great Landscape Value and on registered common …read more

We fight plan to extend life of wind turbines on Cumbrian commons

We have objected to plans by Zephyr Investments Ltd to extend the life of the 12 wind turbines on common land at Kirkby Moor and High Lowick, Cumbria, for a further eight years and seven months, to 31 March 2027. In 2015, South Lakeland District Council refused permission for the replacement of the existing turbines with six larger ones when the current permission expires in 2018. Now the developer wants to keep the existing ones instead and has submitted a planning application for consent to do so. We object because the turbines are a severe intrusion in a wild landscape, highly visible from many directions and in particular from the Lake District National Park and when seen against the national …read more

Enjoying access to the outdoors in Wales

We have a rare opportunity to influence the laws and practices for public paths and access land in Wales. The Welsh Government is consulting on access to the outdoors in chapter 4 of its document Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources. The closing date for responses is 30 September, and anyone may respond. The Open Spaces Society is preparing its response and would be pleased to hear your views. In summary, our preliminary views are as follows. We support or have no objection to: • Amend or revoke some of the items on the list of restrictions on access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) (proposal 11) • The extension of public access …read more

We fight Northampton Council’s plan to dispose of vital open space

The society has objected to Northampton Borough Council’s plan to dispose of open space at Lancaster Way in Northampton. The council has advertised its intention to sell the land and is required to consider any representations (under section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972). The council wants to use the open space on the north-west side of Lancaster Way as an access into adjoining residential development. Says Kate Ashbrook, OSS general secretary: ‘We have argued that the council does not need to sacrifice this important open space in order to provide access to the new development. There is an alternative access available to the north from Leah Bank which should be used instead. ‘The open space at Lancaster Way …read more

Comment on revised standard for gaps, gates and stiles

The revision of British Standard BS 5709, Gaps, Gates & Stiles, has now been issued for public comment and will be open for comments until Tuesday 19 September. The draft can be found on the online standards development portal here. You will need to log in to post comments so, if you are not already registered on the site, please do so here. Chris Beney, our local correspondent who is on the Working Party for BS5709, has advised that they would welcome comments before the 19 September deadline if possible.

We back call for truly coastal access at Lee Abbey beauty-spot

The society is backing the Ramblers, the Exmoor Society and the Exmoor Local Access Forum in calling on Natural England (NE) to create a truly coastal path on the north Devon coast at Lee Abbey, a mile and a half west of Lynton. The Exmoor National Park Authority also wants NE to re-examine the proposed route and enter into further discussion with the landowner. NE has consulted the public about the route for the England Coast Path and access land between Minehead and Combe Martin. The South West Coast Path National Trail currently goes inland on a road instead of following the coast around Duty Point. The objectors believe that the identification of the route of the England Coast Path …read more

Village green successes

We are delighted to announce the recent registration of three new town/village greens following successful campaigns by members of the society: After a two-year battle by Chris Faulkner-Gibson, on behalf of Colston Estate Community Association (CECA), to save land at Colston’s Field, Frome Valley, Bristol, it was registered as a town/village green in July 2017. In somewhat unusual circumstances following a pre-inquiry meeting in 2016, discussions were held with the landowner who, after lengthy negotiations, agreed to submit an application to register the land voluntarily. Although the area registered is smaller than that included in CECA’s original application, the association has met all its objectives and the whole field has been saved from development. Access, previously enjoyed by the local …read more

We welcome Kent County Council’s plan for country parks

We have welcomed Kent County Council’s new plan for its country parks* but have warned that the council must take care, in making them financially self-sustaining, not to allow unsuitable commercial activities there. The consultation on the Kent Country Parks strategy 2017-2021 is open until Monday 11 September. (You can respond here.) We are pleased that the council has dropped its plans earlier this year of selling its country parks and has instead put together a plan for protecting and managing them. Kent has developed a new vision for its parks: ‘to provide an inspirational and sustainable countryside experience for Kent’s residents and visitors’. This is a great starting-point for ensuring that the parks are properly protected and managed. In …read more

We help to save part of Northumberland common

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has refused to grant an application under section 19 of the Commons Act 2006, to deregister a small area of land on Allendale Common, at Spartylea in Northumberland. The land was adjacent to a dwelling at Clayhole, which had been owned by the applicant, Mr Leslie Smith, since 1985. Mr Smith said it had been wrongly registered by the commons registration authority in 1968. The society objected to the application, as did Allendale estates, the owner of the rest of the common. We said there was no evidence of a mistake made by the authority. The history of the application land was uncertain: there is no doubt that, within the …read more

A green Brexit must include more opportunities for public access

We have welcomed the pledge from the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to deliver a green Brexit (speech, ‘The Unfrozen Moment: delivering a green Brexit’, 21 July), but have called for this to include support for greater public access to the countryside. Michael Gove speech did not mention recreation or public access in his speech but, in response to a question from Judy Ling Wong of the Black Environment Network, he said that as education secretary he had worked to make it easier for schoolchildren to visit and enjoy where our food comes from and that we can embed a love of nature in the way in which we plan and design new buildings and landscape. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general …read more

Walkers’ groups fight plan to close valuable town-centre path in High Wycombe

The Open Spaces Society and the Buckinghamshire Ramblers have opposed a plan by Wycombe District Council to close part of a valuable footpath in High Wycombe’s town centre. The council wants to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order(1) (PSPO) on the path, which would close it to public use. It claims that the path is subject to crime and anti-social behaviour. The path is a short cut between Desborough Avenue and West End Street. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary and footpath secretary of the Ramblers in Buckinghamshire: ‘This path is part of a much longer route extending between Rutland Street and Leigh Street. It is a well-used and popular short cut. ‘We do not consider that closing this path …read more

We welcome designation of Lake District as World Heritage Site

As Britain’s leading pressure-group for open spaces and common land, we welcome the announcement that the Lake District National Park will be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The society’s chairman, Graham Bathe(1), said: ‘This announcement brings the fullest recognition that the Lake District is a cultural landscape of global importance, forged by the interplay of nature and human traditions over thousands of years.  The designation is wonderful news for visitors who enjoy the beauty and wildlife of the area, and also those who farm and nurture the land.   Cumbria has nearly a third of all the common land of England(2), and is a brilliant resource for access and wildlife.’ Hugh Craddock, one of the society’s case officers, added, ‘Commoning(3) …read more

We criticise new Ordnance Survey map of greenspaces

As Britain’s leading pressure-group for open spaces, we say that today’s launch of a new ‘comprehensive map of greenspaces’(1) fails to deliver the Government’s commitment to map ‘all open-access green space’. The Ordnance Survey has announced the publication of a database of greenspaces in Great Britain. The database is offered via a mapping tool online, and freely available for download. The database responds to the commitment by the Conservative party in its 2015 manifesto to, ‘make it easier to access our beautiful landscapes, by providing free, comprehensive maps of all open-access green space.’ The database does not discriminate between public open spaces and land used exclusively for private recreation. Public and private golf courses are both shown as accessible greenspace, …read more

London Council in ‘unprecedented’ move to exploit open space

A London Council has made an ‘unprecedented’ move to make money out of holding events on a flagship open space. Lambeth Council’s planning committee on Tuesday evening (4 July) gave blanket approval to a 110-day schedule of music festivals and other events on the 35-hectare half of Clapham Common it owns. The Town and Country Planning Act allows temporary use of land for not more than 28 days without planning permission. Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook has described Lambeth’s action as ‘driving a coach and horses’ through legislation designed to protect open spaces. The Council had received numerous objections to intensified use of Clapham Common for events, which have caused serious damage to the ground and close off huge parts …read more

A new deal for public access post-Brexit

‘Agricultural funds post Brexit should pay for more and better public access.’ So declared the Open Spaces Society’s vice-president, Paul Clayden, at the society’s annual general meeting in London on Thursday 6 July. ‘The government has promised that the current level of agricultural support will be maintained until the next election. This means that there is an opportunity to change the way the payments are made to deliver better value for public money. Clearly, public money should procure public goods, such as better paths and more access to land, to be exercised responsibly. ‘The Open Spaces Society wants to achieve a new deal for public access. This should include payments for the creation of new public paths or to improve …read more

We urge caution on proposed law changes for parks

We have condemned government proposals to legislate to prevent local authorities charging ‘Parkrun’ and ‘Junior Parkrun’. We were responding to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) consultation ‘Running free’, on preserving the free use of public parks. The society believes this issue of charging must not be taken in isolation as it will be detrimental to all those involved in the use and management of parks, and will jeopardise existing good relations between councils and park users. Worryingly, the DCLG consultation does not refer to the detailed report from the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee on public parks published in February 2017, which considered at length the challenges facing the park sector and how best …read more

We deplore power-lines on Bridgend common

We are disappointed that Welsh ministers have approved an application from Western Power Distribution to site an overhead electricity line, with 16 poles, on a South Wales common. The proposed electricity line will 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 had to obtain the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We argued that the line would be an eyesore and would spoil the enjoyment of walkers and riders on this wild, open common. The inspector, Joanne Burston, imposed a condition requiring the …read more

Ancient Lewes bridleway under attack again

The ancient bridleway and popular bridleway from Lewes prison to Lewes racecourse and beyond is used by many walkers, equestrians and cyclists. It is one of the main ways Lewes residents and visitors access the South Downs. Now it is under attack again. What has happened Some years ago signs were erected, trying to stop people walking along the legal route of the bridleway, which goes to the right of the hedge in the picture (and not to the left, as the sign says). A fence was put up across the bridleway as well. People put up with the diversion, partly because they had no choice and partly because the diversion was a minor one, but it was an indication …read more

We call on Assembly Members to speak up for Wales’s designated landscapes

We have written to Welsh Assembly Members to urge them to speak in the Senedd debate on the review of Wales’s designated landscapes, the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  Members are to debate the report Future Landscapes, Delivering for Wales, on Tuesday 6 June. The society is concerned that the review could undermine the foundations on which Wales’s National Parks and AONBs stand. These special areas are the jewels in Wales’s crown, of immense value for their natural beauty and the inspiration and refreshment they offer to the people of Wales and beyond.  The legislation which set them up, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, has stood the test of time. This …read more

A commons’ conference companion

The Countryside and Community Research Institute of Gloucester University (CCRI) has published a Commons e-book which is a compilation of blogs written at or about the biennial global conferences of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC).    You can download it here. The book is written by John Powell and Chris Short of CCRI, and our general secretary Kate Ashbrook, with a foreword  by Ruth Meinzen-Dick, former IASC president.  It is edited by Nick Lewis of CCRI. The area of commons management and governance has become more topical over recent years, and some of the key concepts are clearly starting to influence the thinking of some world leaders (for example, the second encyclical published by Pope Francis …read more

Jubilee Field at Boddington is safe

The Friends of Jubilee Field have succeeded in getting a village meadow recorded as an Area of Community Value (ACV), and thus saved for local people to enjoy. The 3.5-acre field is at Upper Boddington, ten miles south-west of Daventry in Northamptonshire. HS2 will run along the south side of the village, putting local green space at risk of development. The parish council bought the field five years ago, but the community wanted to secure greater protection for it. Local people, led by Open Spaces Society member Debbie Turner, formed the Friends of Jubilee Field and applied to South Northamptonshire District Council to register the land as an ACV. The council has accepted this so now, if the land is …read more

We fight plan to deregister part of Leigh Common, Wimborne

We have objected to plans by Gleeson Developments Ltd to strike part of Leigh Common, east Wimborne in Dorset, from the common-land register. The developers want to build an access-road across the common to serve a new housing development on land south of Leigh Road which crosses the common. It also wants to widen the existing tarmac footway across the common to add a cycleway. In March the developers applied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the Planning Inspectorate, for consent for these works on the common, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The society objected to the application which would suburbanise a rustic common and create an unacceptable intrusion. Moreover, the …read more

New chance to rescue lost commons in Wales

On 5 May 2017, for the first time in 47 years, the public can claim ‘lost’ commons in Wales. The Welsh Government will bring into force legislation which ensures that any commons which failed to make it to final registration under the Commons Registration Act 1965 can now be rescued. We are delighted at this development which will enable people to record and protect their ‘lost’ commons. Once common land is on the register, it potentially gives the public the right to walk and possibly ride there, and it has additional protection from development and encroachment. The Commons Registration Act 1965 required all commons to be registered but only allowed three years for this to be done. Some commons which …read more

We keep a close eye on ancient Broxbourne route

We are keeping a close eye on the fate of an ancient route which is next to a new development at Broxbourne School in Hertfordshire. We objected to the planning application because of its adverse effect on Hoddlesdon restricted byway 40, an ancient public right of way. Despite the many objections, Broxbourne School has been granted permission from Broxbourne Borough Council to demolish the old school and build a new academy, with 150 houses on the former school site. There are 38 conditions attached to the consent, one of which is that ‘all public rights of way routes shall remain undisturbed and unobstructed at all times unless legally stopped up or diverted prior to the commencement of the development’. We …read more

Cumbrian commons face biggest threat since enclosure movement

Local and national organisations (1) are campaigning to stop the Ministry of Defence from destroying a vast area of Cumbria’s cultural history. The MoD wants to deregister three large upland commons (2) and turn them into private land. Objectors say the deregistration would be unlawful and flies in the face of undertakings made by the MoD, at a public inquiry, to keep the commons registered in perpetuity (3). MoD will privatise around 1% (4,500 hectares) of England’s total common land (4) if Cumbria County Council grants it permission (5). This would be the largest enclosure since the major enclosures of commons in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. If the land is deregistered, it will bring to an end hundreds …read more

Powys beauty-spot wind turbines rejected

Powys County Council’s Planning Committee has rejected plans for seven wind-turbines at Llandegley, five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys.  The society was among numerous objectors to the proposal. Geoff Sinclair of Environmental Information Services, spoke on behalf of 55 local objectors at the planning meeting on Thursday (27 April). The councillors, with only one dissentient, rejected the application because it would be unacceptable in landscape and visual terms, would have a significant effect on users of nearby public paths, and would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the setting of scheduled ancient monuments in and around the prominent Llandegley Rocks. The society had also pointed out that the development could be in breach of an inclosure award.  At least …read more

Government corrects its breach of EU laws by giving extra protection to common land

We have welcomed the Government’s decision to apply environmental impact assessment (EIA)¹ to common land.² The society led the campaign to change the regulations so as to protect common land. New regulations were laid before parliament on 25 April and take effect on 16 May. In future, works on common land—typically to erect fencing—will have to be assessed against the requirements of EIA. If applicants want to carry out works beyond a threshold, set out in regulations, they will have to seek an EIA screening opinion from the government’s adviser Natural England, to decide whether a full EIA is needed. The screening opinion, and an EIA, are in addition to the requirement for consent to works on common land under …read more

Housing White Paper—a lost opportunity to create new green space

We have criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Housing White Paper* for threatening to undermine Local Green Space (LGS). The society believes that LGS should provide opportunities for public enjoyment and well-being. LGS was introduced in the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012, but government has never defined it nor prescribed a process for its designation, so it remains underused and uncomprehended. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘While LGS is an excellent concept, there has never been a clear process for its designation, nor is there guidance on how it should be managed, enforced and protected. ‘The NPPF only affords LGS the same protection as green belt, which is itself threatened, and LGS confers no rights of …read more

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

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