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Articles & Comment

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

1 December 2016

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

Threat to Harrogate’s ancient Stray

24 November 2016

Harrogate Borough Council in North Yorkshire plans to extend and expand the use of Harrogate Stray for commercial activities.  The Stray, 80 hectares of open grassland embracing the town, has existed for centuries.  Residents and visitors enjoy this beautiful green space for quiet recreation. The council is consulting the public on its proposals to weaken the provisions of the Harrogate Stray Act 1985.  The Act restricts the types of events which can take place on the Stray, the number of days to 35 a year, and the maximum area that can be enclosed at any one time to 3.5 hectares.  We were involved at the time the Act went through Parliament and reluctantly accepted its provisions. Now the council wants …read more

We call for full reinstatement of Battersea Park after Formula E motor race

23 November 2016

We have called on Wandsworth Council to ensure that Battersea Park is fully reinstated following the Formula E motor race in July.  The society is backing the Battersea Park Action Group and others in objecting to Formula E’s planning application which fails to achieve full restoration of the park. The application is intended to confirm the permanent layout of the park following the event.  Wandsworth Council promised full reinstatement in return for allowing the event to take place—although, as a result of court action, it will never occur in Battersea Park again. We are dismayed that Wandsworth Council is failing to enforce the full reinstatement of Battersea Park by Formula E. It seems that Formula E is willing to achieve …read more

New threat of wind turbines in Cambrian Mountains

21 November 2016

Powys County Council proposes to designate Local Search Areas (LSAs), where wind and solar generation will be encouraged.  The result could be many wind turbines and other structures on the mountains of central Wales.  The proposals are made in the county’s Local Development Plan on which the public’s views are sought. We have objected most strongly.  The proposed LSAs sweep across the Cambrian Mountains, taking in acres of common land and other open country as well as public paths and national trails, ancient monuments and wildlife reserves.  If wind turbines and solar panels were to be erected on these uplands, their landscapes and special characteristics, so treasured by residents and visitors, would be destroyed. Powys County Council seems unaware that much of …read more

Festival closure of internationally-acclaimed footpath

We have objected to plans by the Henley Festival for the temporary closure of the Thames Path National Trail in July 2017. Every year since 1998 the Festival has applied to Wokingham Borough Council, the highway authority, for the temporary closure of the path during the Festival, and the council has agreed.  The Open Spaces Society, Remenham Parish Council, the Ramblers and others have consistently objected because the closure is unnecessary.  The organisations argue that the Festival should rearrange its activities to keep the path open. We are dismayed that once again the Festival proposes to ride roughshod over the path’s users—they include visitors from this country and overseas, as well as local people wanting a quiet walk by the …read more

We win new green space and footpath for Witney, Oxfordshire

17 November 2016

We have won a new town green and public footpath for the town of Witney in Oxfordshire. These are on land which is being developed by Richmond Care Villages (RCV) between Thorney Leys and Curbridge Road. RCV went ahead with their development, illegally obstructing Witney footpath 40 which they belatedly applied to move.  The path is important because it is a traffic-free direct route to and from open countryside south of Witney. Our local correspondent, Chris Hall, objected to the revised route of the path because it was longer and less pleasant for users; it passes through a housing estate instead of over a green field.  The objection would normally have gone to a public inquiry and delayed the development …read more

We back best-ever coastal route in Hamble River valley, Hampshire

We are supporting the Hamble River Valley Forum (HRVF) in Hampshire in its bid to secure the best possible route for the England Coast Path. Natural England is identifying the route of the coastal path in stages and is currently looking at the stretch between Calshot and Gosport.  Once the route is set, there will be spreading room for the public to enjoy between the path and the sea and inland to the first sensible boundary. Natural England is inclined to take the route across the Hamble estuary using the Hamble-Warsash ferry.  The HRVF and the OSS argue that as an alternative the route should be identified along both sides of the Hamble estuary, with a crossing using the footway …read more

We slate sales of unique Brighton downland

16 November 2016

We have written to Brighton councillors to condemn the sale of Brighton’s unique downland, much of it within the South Downs National Park. A number of sites have already been sold and others are under offer, with the council’s agents Savills.  Brighton and Hove City Council plans to sell more than 100 acres of downland to raise money to manage Stanmer Park, among other purposes. We were active when the council acquired the land in the 1930s and are dismayed by the plans.  We believe that there could be a threat to public access and to the value of the sites for their flora and fauna.  There would be no requirement for a private landowner to care for the land in …read more

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

9 November 2016

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

We oppose public-path changes in Meopham, Kent

8 November 2016

We have objected to plans from a landowner to move public footpaths onto inferior routes, to accommodate a vineyard, at Meopham in Kent.  We are backing our member the Meopham and District Footpaths Group in fighting the proposals. The landowner, Mr G Bassi, says that he bought the land with the intention of expanding his viticulture business.  However the fields are crossed by popular public paths.  He now wants to move these from across the fields to the field edges. Says our local correspondent, David Thornewell: ‘These paths are immensely popular with local people and visitors because they provide direct links with the village of Meopham through beautiful countryside. ‘At present these paths follow purposeful routes across the countryside.  The …read more

Damaging development in the heart of the Chiltern Hills

7 November 2016

We have objected to plans from the Well Place Manor Trust to build a private equestrian development in an unspoilt valley in the heart of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The site, at Skirmett in Bucks, has been the subject of many previous planning applications, most of which have been rejected by Wycombe District Council. The proposed buildings are out of all proportion with the landscape of this unspoilt valley and will be an eyesore when seen from the many popular public paths in the area.  There are paths close to the site and paths further away, which offer long views—on which this development would be a severe blot. The applicants pay little regard to public paths in …read more

Public invitation to view site of new paths and green in Witney, Oxfordshire

4 November 2016

At the instigation of the Open Spaces Society, Richmond Villages have published the following advertisement in this week’s Witney Gazette inviting the public to visit its development site and see the position of two proposed new paths and a town green. PUBLIC NOTICE INVITATION TO THE PUBLIC The land between Thorney Leys and Curbridge Road is being developed by Richmond Care Villages.  As a result the public footpath across the site has been obstructed and closed. Following discussion with the Open Spaces Society, Richmond now proposes two footpaths across the site: (a) a diversion of the existing path and (b) a new path leading to a pedestrian-controlled crossing of Thorney Leys. At the Society’s suggestion Richmond has also agreed to register as …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

We fight development on Leyton green space

1 November 2016

We have objected to a planning application for sports facilities on a green space at Ive Farm, Leyton in Waltham Forest. The development includes two outdoor sports pitches, a spring track, volleyball arena, pavilion, seating, floodlighting and car parking. We that this will suburbanise land which is an extensive green space enjoyed by local people for informal recreation. This extensive natural green space is a vital asset for the community and should be protected.  People have long been accustomed to roam freely here.  The development, with sports pitches, pavilion, car-parking and floodlighting, will suburbanise it and destroy its special qualities.  It will only be available for use by a limited section of the population instead of being open to all. …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 case officer’s diary

31 October 2016

Our case officer Nicola Hodgson gives a snapshot of her work for the society, both in and out of the office. As case officer for commons, greens and open spaces over the last 17 years I have experienced a huge volume and variety of issues and shared some of the frustrations, challenges and successes of members of the society. In my daily contact with members and other organisations, the range of inquiries and difficulties is still a surprise, even after all those years.  It may be a simple question about the size of a map required for a village-green application, but it might be a thick bundle of documents to be assessed when objections have been submitted to a green …read more

Obstructing fence removed from Windsor footpath

A public footpath in Windsor has been recorded correctly on the official map and reopened to its full width after having been fenced in. The footpath runs between Priors Road and Keepers Farm Close on the west side of Windsor.  The addition of the path to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) definitive map of public paths followed a public inquiry in October 2015. The route had been walked for 50 years, since the properties in and around Priors Road, known as the Keepers Farm Estate, were built.  This was sufficient evidence to show that it should be recorded as a public footpath on the map.  Although no one objected to the addition of the path to the …read more

We help defeat land swap for Limpenhoe village green, Norfolk

28 October 2016

We have helped prevent the swap of part of Limpenhoe village green, ten miles south-east of Norwich in Norfolk.  The green is in the Broads National Park. Cantley Parish Council proposed to remove 4,970 square metres of Limpenhoe village green from the register and offer in exchange only 1,500 square metres closer to the village centre.  It needed to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006.   We objected to the proposal since the land to be given in exchange was much smaller than the land to be deregistered.  Moreover the replacement land had limited access to it.  There were also …read more

Our new drive to rescue lost commons

26 October 2016

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

Access means Access

24 October 2016

Whatever we may feel about leaving the EU it does provide a chance to rethink our agricultural-support systems, and to devise a scheme which favours public access, writes our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook. Lord Gardiner, in his reply to our letter to the Prime Minister, said: ‘We will be looking to develop a new approach to supporting agriculture and protecting our precious countryside including issues around cross compliance on rights of way’.  We want to help him. The EU pays British farmers up to £3 billion a year, of which £600 million (20 per cent) is for environmental protection.  Of course this is all public money which should pay for public goods.  Various amenity groups have piled in with their …read more

Mary Traynor takes on South Lakeland, Cumbria

19 October 2016

Mary Traynor is our new local correspondent for South Lakeland District in Cumbria.  She lives at High Tenterfell near Kendal.  Her interest in the Open Spaces Society was sparked by her concern for the local town green, Kendal Fell, which is of natural history and archaeological interest, and is used as a golf course.  There are occasional conflicts and Mary is keen to promote the idea of shared space, tolerance and responsibility there. Mary is employed at Lancaster University as executive editor of the Journal of Experimental Botany.  She loves walking. Says Mary: ‘I am very pleased to be appointed as local correspondent for the society.  We have some beautiful countryside in south Cumbria with wonderful access opportunities and I …read more

Reopening of blocked footpath at Little Hautbois, Norfolk

12 October 2016

The blocked Buxton with Lammas footpath 1 has been reopened.  The path, which runs past the Tudor mansion Hautbois Hall, had been blocked to a narrow width with fences and gates.  We lobbied Norfolk County Council to reopen it and now this has been done.                       In 2010 the society complained that the path was blocked and Norfolk County Council took enforcement action to ensure it was reopened.  Six years later it was blocked again and the county council once more threatened legal action to secure its reopening. Says Ian Witham, our local correspondent who had pressed the county to act: ‘It is astonishing that the owners of Hautbois Hall …read more

Friends of Panshanger Park campaign to save Repton’s Broadwater

27 September 2016

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

26 September 2016

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

23 September 2016

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

8 September 2016

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

7 September 2016

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

6 September 2016

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

A fair way to challenge planning decisions that damage our environment and living conditions

1 September 2016

As part of the Wildlife & Countryside Link (Link) Legal Group, we are supporting Louise Venn in her court case which seeks to close a legal loophole that is preventing Aarhus cost caps being applied to statutory review challenges in England and Wales. This loophole leaves most national planning decisions immune from affordable challenge and, as a consequence, community groups, residents and local authorities have no way to prevent environmentally damaging developments, allowed by national inspectors even when these undermine local planning policies, because of the very high cost of court proceedings. The case is explained more simply on Louise’s Crowd Justice platform where she is fundraising for the first stage of costs. Louise adds “No other country in Europe …read more

Speak up for open spaces and parks in Brighton

30 August 2016

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

Get in ahead of the Deregulation Act

The Deregulation Act is likely to come into force in England in the next few months. When you apply for the addition of a path to the definitive map, the surveying authority is required to determine your application within 12 months. If it has not done so, you can apply to the Secretary of State for Environment, or Welsh ministers, for a direction to the council to determine the application. Once the Deregulation Act takes effect in England, your application must be made to the magistrates’ court rather than the secretary of state. This is a drawback since current court fees are £205 to commence proceedings and £515 for a contested hearing. So, if 12 months have elapsed since you …read more

PM back from alpine hike to walkers’ warning

24 August 2016

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

23 August 2016

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!

19 August 2016

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

15 August 2016

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

11 August 2016

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

8 August 2016

‘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

3 August 2016

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

1 August 2016

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

We call for more broadleaves, and more discussion, on Dartmoor’s forest estate

25 July 2016

We have called for greater replacement of conifer trees with native broadleaves in the Dartmoor forests, clearance of trees from ancient monuments, and an open debate about the future of the forest estate. We were responding to the Forestry Commission’s consultation on its Dartmoor Forest Plan, 2016-2026. We deeply regret that we were not informed about this consultation, which originally ran until 1 April.  We only learnt about it by chance and that it had been extended to 25 July.  In view of our interest in Dartmoor’s commons and open spaces, we are surprised that the Forestry Commission did not consult us. However, we have now put in our response.  We consider that the Forestry Commission plantations (Bellever, Fernworthy, Soussons …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

We fight increase in parking on Hackney’s common land

The London Borough of Hackney is recommending that its Planning Sub-Committee approve the council’s plans to relax the conditions for parking on Hackney’s North Marsh.  The committee meets next Wednesday (27 July). We objected in 2014 to an application from the council to build a pavilion and associated car park here, on registered common land, but the development was granted planning permission and consent by the Planning Inspectorate for works on common land.  Now Hackney wants to increase the parking provision from 58 to 68 vehicles. The North Marsh is an important area for quiet recreation, much enjoyed by the public.  The expansion of parking capacity will lead to an increase in vehicular traffic, disrupting people’s enjoyment and putting everyone …read more

Rejection of fencing on Westerdale Common

19 July 2016

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

New Sheffield environmental charity launched

15 July 2016

‘Sheffield and the Peak District National Park are the crucible of the access crusade.  The new Sheffield Environmental Movement is well placed to enable everyone to enjoy the park’s special qualities today’. So said Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, when she launched the new charity, the Sheffield Environmental Movement, led by Maxwell Ayamba, at Sheffield Hallam University on Thursday evening (14 July). ‘We live in uncertain times,’ Kate continued, ‘but our national parks and wild places are constant and give us stability, refreshment and renewal.  It is vital that everyone should be able to enjoy them.  That was the intention of the government nearly 70 years ago when the then Minister of Town and Country Planning, Lewis Silkin, introduced the …read more

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

11 July 2016

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

Threat to Anglesey common goes to appeal hearing

8 July 2016

On 19 July the Planning Inspectorate will hear an appeal against Anglesey Council’s refusal of a planning application for a new dwelling at the rear of Penmarian Mawr, Llangoed.  The development would be in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and includes a new access across registered common land. We have objected to the application because of its adverse effect on the AONB and the common. Says Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary: ‘We oppose this development which would be an eyesore in this lovely landscape with its fascinating historic features and listed buildings.  It would also pose a threat to the adjoining common. ‘The new access to the property would be across registered common land, and the …read more

Claim our commons now, call from our vice-president

7 July 2016

‘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

4 July 2016

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

3 July 2016

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

1 July 2016

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

23 June 2016

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

Space invaders

16 June 2016

Public funding is being cut and our green spaces exploited to fill the gap. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, considers the threat to our open spaces and national parks. In London, communities fight motor racing in Battersea Park, and festivals on Acton Green, Clapham Common and Finsbury Park—among countless battles. But we have a new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has made welcome manifesto pledges to ‘strengthen protections for open spaces within the London Plan’ and to ‘open up more walking routes around London’—and many others.  He should outlaw the commercial abuse of London’s open spaces for a start. Slashing It’s not just London of course.  Last year Surrey County Council decided to ‘achieve a self-funded countryside estate’ by …read more

Abbey Road Open Space at Steyning is a village green

10 June 2016

West Sussex County Council has agreed to register four and a half acres of open space at Abbey Road, Steyning, as a village green. The Friends of Abbey Road Open Space applied to register the land as a green on 23 July 2015, on the grounds that local people had used the land for 20 years without being stopped or asking permission, ie ‘as of right’.  The Friends submitted evidence from 61 witnesses who confirmed that they had used the land in this way.  The landowner, Steyning Parish Council, had posted a notice on the land on 25 July 2014, in which it gave the public permission to use the land; this was a challenge to the use as of right.  …read more

Learning to find our way

8 June 2016

The society has established the Find Our Way fund, to support those who are investigating unrecorded historic ways with a view to applying for them to be added to the definitive maps of public rights of way.  This work is now urgent, as applications must be made before 1 January 2026 or the routes could be lost for ever (see here). On Sunday 5 June we held a training session for our members and others near Chepstow.  The seven-hour day was run by experts Phil Wadey (our vice-chairman) and Sarah Bucks and was packed with information. The event proved popular, with 23 volunteers signing up from the Welsh counties of Bridgend, Caerphilly Carmarthenshire, Monmouthshire, Newport and Vale of Glamorgan, and in England from …read more

Public footpath must be protected during Henley Regatta

7 June 2016

We are anxious that Henley footpath 14, on the west bank of the River Thames, should remain undisturbed during the Regatta.  The society has responded to the Regatta’s application for a licence to use the area for entertainment and to control entry. The area which is included in the licence takes in the route of Henley public footpath 14.  We therefore warned South Oxfordshire District Council that, should it be minded to grant the application, it must stress to the Regatta that the public footpath must be kept clear and unobstructed, on its official route, at all times. We are delighted to hear from the council that it has passed the message on to the Regatta’s solicitors, and that they …read more

Threat to Clerkenwell Green, Islington

We have objected to Islington Council’s plans to mutilate Clerkenwell Green, by replacing the historic, underground, public conveniences with a café. The open space has traditionally been used for public assemblies.  The toilets, designed by George Jennings, are of considerable historic interest. The Open Spaces Society was founded 151 years ago initially to fight for London’s open spaces such as Clerkenwell Green This much-loved space should be protected for public enjoyment, not trashed for commercial gain. The society is backing the Clerkenwell Green Preservation Society.  The application is due to be considered by LB Islington on 7 June.  

Moorside Fields, Lancaster are a village green

2 June 2016

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

25 May 2016

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

Commons in a ‘glocal’ world

24 May 2016

This was the title of the conference which our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, attended in Bern, Switzerland, in May.  It was organised by the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) and Bern University, to discuss commons at a European level.  Kate tells the story. We should start with some definitions.  ‘Glocal’ means the interaction between global governments, multi-national businesses and corporations, and local communities.  ‘Commons’ at such conferences are much more than our land areas registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965, they embrace common resources—land, air, water, indigenous people, knowledge and much else. I went to the conference with John Powell from the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at Gloucester University.  John is president-elect of …read more

The Fight For Beauty

16 May 2016

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

Threat to Dunsfold Common, Surrey

5 May 2016

Kitewood Investments Ltd has applied for planning permission for 42 dwellings and associated development adjacent to Dunsfold Common south of Guildford in Surrey. The plans include an access track across the common, which will require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in addition to planning permission, because it is works on common land. This development will be an eyesore and an intrusion in beautiful countryside, and in particular will have a damaging effect on the adjoining Dunsfold Common. The public enjoys rights to walk and ride over the whole common, and it has a very rural feel about it.  If houses are built right next door, it will become a piece of suburbia. Furthermore …read more

We fight plan to seize part of Haven Green common

We have objected to plans by Ealing Council to deregister part of Haven Green common. The council wants to legitimise a cycle hub which was constructed unlawfully on the common in 2012.  This did not receive the necessary ministerial consent for works on common land before it was installed. We argue that the council should offer land in exchange for the common which has been purloined for the cycle hub, but the council claims this is not necessary.  While the society supports the provision for cycling, we contend that such provision should not be sited on common land. We are backing our member, the Friends of Haven Green which has also objected most strongly.

Heritage Lottery funding for Kent’s Greensand Commons

25 April 2016

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

19 April 2016

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

18 April 2016

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

Damaging New Forest development is rejected

8 April 2016

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has said no to an ugly solar ‘farm’ in the New Forest National Park. Greg Clark has dismissed an appeal from MTS Exbury Solar Ltd against refusal of planning permission by the New Forest National Park Authority.  The application was for a solar farm on nine hectares of land east of Lepe Farm, Exbury.  The appeal was heard at Lymington Town Hall in January. This is an excellent result.  This beautiful area, close to public paths, has been spared from a terrible eyesore.  The inspector and the Secretary of State concluded that a solar farm, with all its paraphernalia, ‘would have significant adverse landscape and visual effects’ and that ‘great weight …read more

We fight road threat to Surrey common

We are concerned that Miller Developments is threatening to build a road across Broad Street Common, near Guildford in Surrey, to serve a proposed new housing development of 220 properties.  We have urged Surrey County Council to reject the plan. Broad Street Common is heavily protected.  Not only is it registered common land with access rights for walkers and horse-riders, but it is also a Site of Nature Conservation Importance within the Metropolitan Green Belt.  It is land which is of enormous value for its public interest. Miller Developments need much more than just planning permission for such a road across the common.  It must also provide common land in exchange for that to be obliterated, and we consider that it …read more

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

31 March 2016

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

29 March 2016

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

24 March 2016

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

23 March 2016

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

22 March 2016

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

Park sharks

21 March 2016

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, considers how commercial exploitation is threatening our parks and green spaces. As I walked through Battersea Park in the February sunshine I found it hard to imagine what it would be like here in July.  Then the quiet roads around the park will be converted into a motor-race track for the international Formula E event and most of the park will be closed to the public. Formula E is not the only threat to London’s parks: Ealing Council is backing a boozy Oktoberfest on Acton Green common, and last year Lambeth allowed a festival on Clapham Common, converting a green space into a mudbath. Such events are in breach of the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces …read more

Bucks councils recognise value of Local Green Space

17 March 2016

We are pleased that Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils have recognised the importance of Local Green Space in their new joint local plan. The councils have advocated that where land is proposed for removal from the green belt, the joint local plan will consider whether additional planning controls are appropriate, such as protection as Local Green Space.  Although the society does not support removal of land from the green belt, it is relieved that something is being offered in its place. The councils also ask communities to nominate green areas of particular importance, to be protected in the local plan as Local Green Space. The Open Spaces Society has been urging planning authorities to designate land as Local Green …read more

Local councils need to be proactive in saving their open spaces

9 March 2016

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

4 March 2016

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

Commons – global and local

3 March 2016

The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) of the University of Gloucestershire has published its new book, Commons—Governance of Shared Assets, coinciding nicely with World Book Day. It can be downloaded as a pdf  or as epub from the university’s website. The book is a collection of recent blog posts on the CCRI website, centred on the theme of how we manage shared assets and what alternative approaches there might be, informed by research and practice in the governance of common resources. In his introduction, John Powell explains that the whole area of commons and management of common-pool resources has become more topical over the last six years following the award of the Nobel Prize for Economics to Elinor Ostrom for …read more

We call for public access to Shropshire woodlands

2 March 2016

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

29 February 2016

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

26 February 2016

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 slate boozy event on Acton Green common

23 February 2016

We have objected to an application from Carsten Raun to hold a German beer-festival on Acton Green common, Ealing, for five days this August.  Ealing Council has written to local residents to say that it intends to allow this. We argue that the Oktoberfest is unlawful under the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967 which outlaws certain activities on common land.  Even if the council does not accept that, the event still requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs because it involves temporary structures on common land. We are deeply concerned that it is proposed to hold this commercial venture on common land.  It will destroy the peace and tranquillity for …read more

We renew call for use of Local Green Space designation

18 February 2016

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

Pull the plug on motor race in Battersea Park

We are calling for the immediate withdrawal of a planning application to hold a damaging motor race in a park of national status. The proposal to restage the Formula E race in Grade II*-listed Battersea Park close to central London has sparked hundreds of objections, but Wandsworth Council planners have published their recommendation to approve the event without even waiting for the end of the consultation period which does not close until Friday 19 February. We have complained to the chair of the planning committee which is due to consider the application on 24 February. The race is a totally inappropriate use of this park and the extended loss of access to members of the public is equally unacceptable.  We …read more

We oppose Goaloids on Shepherd’s Bush Common

17 February 2016

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

Thwaite common fencing plan rejected

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

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

16 February 2016

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

Public inquiry to determine fate of treasured Mynydd y Gwair common

12 February 2016

A public inquiry opens on Tuesday (16 February) into the controversial application by RWE Innogy UK Ltd to erect wind turbines and associated infrastructure on Mynydd y Gwair common  north of Swansea.  We object strongly to the application and will be represented by our member Clare Moseley. We deplore the proposed devastation of this magnificent, sweeping, hilltop common.  The 16 wind-turbines with all the paraphernalia that goes with them will rip the heart out of this special place.  Here people are accustomed to walk and ride in peace. Clare Moseley’s mother, the late Jan Moseley, was a winner of the Countryside Council for Wales’s ‘My Special Place’ competition in 2005 with her description of Mynydd y Gwair.  She wrote: I could …read more

Bridgend open spaces in peril

9 February 2016

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

5 February 2016

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

Getting the buzz

31 January 2016

The society has long opposed fencing on commons, and we are pleased that an alternative is being developed. Last November we joined a group of commons practitioners on a visit to Epping Forest, to learn about the use of invisible fencing to contain stock. Epping Forest is a 12-mile-long stretch of ancient woodland straddling the boundaries of Essex and the London Boroughs of Redbridge and Waltham Forest.  It is surrounded by conurbations and busy roads, including the M25, has 4.5 million visits a year.  Yet it survives as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special area of conservation (SAC) a top European designation. Epping Forest was an Anglo-Saxon grazed common which became a royal forest in the …read more

We fight devastation of south Wales common

29 January 2016

We have objected to plans by Miller Argent to enclose parts of Gelligaer and Merthyr common in Caerphilly, to dig six million tonnes of coal from the Nant Llesg mine.  Because this affects common land, the company needs the consent of Welsh ministers for works on the common in addition to any planning consent. The proposals involve fencing which will prevent walkers and riders from exercising their rights over extensive areas of land. A significant area of common land will be closed to walkers and riders for very many years.  We consider this to be against the interests of local people who use and enjoy the common for recreation, and the wider public. The common is a vital asset to the communities …read more

Anglesey Council rejects plans for development in beauty spot

27 January 2016

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

26 January 2016

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

25 January 2016

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

Restore Fawley’s Walnut Tree pub for walkers

20 January 2016

We have backed an application to Wycombe District Council to rebuild and restore the Walnut Tree pub at Fawley in Bucks.  The site is at the hub of a number of public rights of way in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is passed by countless walkers, riders and cyclists. The pub closed in 2003 and a subsequent application to convert it into a private house was rejected.  Now a local resident has bought the site, formed a company (The Walnut Tree (Fawley) Ltd) and applied to rebuild and reopen the pub, a popular move with local people. It’s not often that we support a planning application but we are pleased to back this one.  The pub was …read more

Threat to Cornish bridleway

12 January 2016

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

6 January 2016

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

5 January 2016

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

31 December 2015

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

24 December 2015

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

22 December 2015

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

Forays into Scotland

13 December 2015

As we researched events in our 150-year history, for the 365 ‘tweets of the day‘ during 2015, we came across two occasions when we had wandered north of the border. The first was recorded in our Reports of Proceedings 1891, with the heading ‘Dumbarton Common’. This considerable area of land was set apart by Act of Parliament in about 1858 as a public recreation ground, and the Corporation of Dumbarton have since maintained it as such. Two railway companies, the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway Company and the North British Railway Company, proposed to absorb a considerable area of the recreation ground. The society sent their solicitor to inspect the ground and make inquiries, and he had an interview with the Provost and …read more

Anglesey Council plans to dispose of public park

9 December 2015

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

Charnwood Forest Regional Park

8 December 2015

Chris Peat, our representative on Charnwood Forest Regional Park Steering Group, has sent us this report: The Open Spaces Society strongly supports the development of the Charnwood Forest Regional Park because it will protect and enhance important open spaces within easy reach of the urban areas of Leicester and Loughborough at the eastern end of the National Forest. Members of the OSS may be familiar with Charnwood Forest, which is a distinctive area of upland landscape to the north-west of Leicester. It is valued for its international geological importance, rich biodiversity, landscape beauty, historical importance, and recreational role. The area includes popular public open spaces, commons and country parks, and offers good walking and wide views. It is also a …read more

Gigantic wind-turbines rejected on Lake District boundary

26 November 2015

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

Mixed news from Defra

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

We help to save wonderful Wenvoe footpath

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

We fight fencing on national park common

19 November 2015

We have objected to an application to erect more than half a mile of fencing on Westerdale Common in the North York Moors National Park. The Graziers of High Blakey Moor have applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent for the fence on common land to prevent sheep straying.  The fence is on open country between Danby and Rosedale. We have objected to the application because the fence will be an eyesore in the national park, in a landscape where the protection of natural beauty takes top priority.  Also the fence will exclude walkers and riders from this land, where they have the right to go.  No access points are to be provided. The fence will be a physical and …read more

Campaigner Kate wins ‘Outdoor Personality of the Year’ award

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

Circuit of Wales racetrack to drive through common land

16 November 2015

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

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

11 November 2015

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

New funding initiative to create ‘pocket parks’

10 November 2015

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

Multi million pound Firle footpath ploughed up again

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

Croeso i Gymru?

5 November 2015

‘Opinion’ by our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was published in the autumn 2015 issue of Open Space. In spring 1986 I wrote an article in this magazine called ‘When you go off Offa’s …’. I had been walking part of the Offa’s Dyke national trail and then tried to return on a route using connecting paths in Powys and Shropshire. As soon as I left the trail I encountered dreadful problems. Things have improved since then, but the Welsh Government’s green paper on access and outdoor recreation threatens a return to those dark days. Despite positive statements in the paper about the importance of recreation, the government sees only burdens and costs in the public-path network—and in effect dismisses this great …read more

We applaud new public path in North Norfolk

4 November 2015

A landowner, Wayware Ltd of Southrepps Hall, has dedicated a public byway in the parishes of Sustead and Aldborough and Thurgarton in North Norfolk. The 1,055-metre route leaves Sustead Lane at about 300 yards west of St Peter and St Pauls’ church, Sustead, running in a west-south-westerly direction.  It connects Sustead Lane and Bessingham Road and will enable walkers, riders, cyclists and carriage drivers to take a pleasant shortcut away from traffic. Our local correspondent for Norfolk, Ian Witham, had been researching evidence for the inclusion of this route as a public highway on Norfolk County Council’s official map of public rights of way.  It is vital to record ancient paths before 1 January 2026, the day when many unrecorded …read more

We back new vision for Cambrian Mountains

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

The Great Outdoors Personality of the Year award

3 November 2015

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

Castle Acre Green, Swansea, becomes a new village green

2 November 2015

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

Dismay at decision for Beverley Westwood Common

27 October 2015

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

Lakes and Dales park extensions will protect precious landscapes

23 October 2015

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

Hotel extension threatens Chiltern common

We have objected to a planning application which could threaten the lovely Ibstone Common in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Bucks. The owner of The Fox Country Hotel in Ibstone has applied to Wycombe District Council for permission to extend the premises, to include a flexible restaurant and covered canopy which can be converted into a function suite for about 120 people.  There are only 23 parking spaces, so that customers are likely to park outside on the road and the adjoining common. We fear that, if this planning application is granted, customers at The Fox will find the car-park is full and will park instead along the road and on the common.  Such parking would have …read more

We mourn the death of Michael Meacher

21 October 2015

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

Only ten years left to record our public paths

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

We fight threat to Neatherd Moor common, Dereham, Norfolk

20 October 2015

We have objected strongly to a planning application from Taylor Wimpey for 62 houses and associated works on land next to Neatherd Moor, an ancient common on the east side of Dereham in Norfolk. Our local correspondent, Ian Witham, has protested to Breckland Council. Says Ian: ‘We object strongly to this proposal because of the tremendous impact it would have on Neatherd Moor.  This area, which includes publicly-accessible common land, as well as public paths nearby such as the historic Shilling Lane, is a vital component of the history and identity of East Dereham.  It is hugely important to the amenities of residents and visitors alike. ‘We are dismayed that the developers do not even mention that the site adjoins …read more

150th anniversary of Nottingham Forest recreation ground’s inclosure oak

19 October 2015

On Sunday, 18 October, we joined Nottingham citizens in celebrating 150 years of the Nottingham Forest recreation ground. In the year of the Open Spaces Society’s foundation, 1865, the first oak-tree, the Inclosure Oak, was planted close to the Mansfield Road entrance to the Forest recreation ground.  This was to celebrate the grant of 122 acres of Sherwood Forest as open space in the 1845 inclosure act.  The tree was planted by local solicitor Edwin Patchitt who acted as secretary for the inclosure commissioners and later became Mayor of Nottingham. The event was organised by the efficient and tireless June Perry, who runs the Friends of the Forest and is a member of the OSS.  A procession of 150 people, led by the Sheffield …read more

We defeat Barmby Moor village green swap

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected an application from Barmby Moor Parish Council to swap part of the village green, near Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  The parish council wanted to allow a private vehicular-access across the green.  We were the sole objector. We considered that the swap was unfair, since the proposed exchange land already has full rights of public access and is used as a playground.  The inspector, Susan Doran, agreed.  She concluded that the swap would ‘result in a reduction in public access to village green land since, although larger, the replacement land already enjoys public access’.  The application therefore failed to meet the tests for exchange. We are pleased that the Planning Inspectorate agreed with …read more

We fight renewed attempt to destroy Swansea commons

13 October 2015

We have sent another strong objection to plans to build 16 wind turbines with associated infrastructure on Mynydd y Gwair and adjoining commons, eight miles north of Swansea. RWE Innogy UK Ltd has planning permission for the development but, because it is to be sited on registered common land, the developer needs the additional consent of Welsh ministers for works on, and exchanges of, common land.(2) Similar plans for the common were rejected following a public inquiry last year. We have objected to the company’s proposal to swap land in the heart of the common with inferior land on the edge, so that the land on which the turbines and associated works would be sited is taken out of the …read more

A visit to Ashtead Common

11 October 2015

The Open Spaces Society has had a strong connection with the City of London Corporation all through its history, and we helped the city acquire many of its open spaces: Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches and the Coulsdon Commons.  It was therefore fitting that, as one of our 150th anniversary events, we should visit the city’s Ashtead Common in Surrey. We met at the Ashtead visitor centre on Sunday 11 October and the ranger, Andy Thwaites, treated us to a fascinating and well-researched talk.  He had discovered that our former secretary, Lawrence Chubb, had in 1916 written an article in the Journal of the Royal Society for Arts in which he stressed the importance of the London commons ‘which bring …read more

Agden solar development

We have objected to a planning application for a solar farm at Agden in Cheshire, close to the Shropshire border.  The application from Lightsource SPV 34 Ltd threatens 40 acres of open countryside close to a number of public rights of way. This industrial development will wreck people’s enjoyment of the public paths in the area, most notably the bridleways which form the celebrated Bishop Bennet way through south-west Cheshire.  People come here to enjoy the rural nature of the landscape, not to walk and ride past eyesores. Nearby Whitchurch is a Walkers Are Welcome Town which attracts visitors who want to walk in lovely countryside.  The development may deter people from coming and thus harm the rural economy here.’ …read more

The Welsh consultation on access and recreation

10 October 2015

We have responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation on ‘Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation’.  We have welcomed the proposal for greater access rights but made it clear that this must not be at the expense of public paths.  We have deplored the Welsh Government’s dismissal of the historic value of the path network, and its suggestions that the system should be ‘flexible’, ‘modernised’, ‘streamlined’ and ‘harmonised’.  These are all familiar words to us and are euphemisms for rationalisation and loss of the old ways. We have also deplored the proposal to allow for the prioritisation of recreational routes and access areas.  Highway authorities must maintain the whole path-network, charging offenders for the removal of obstructions and …read more

150th anniversary of midnight raid to free Berkhamsted Common

8 October 2015

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

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

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

Derek Smith

A former activist in south Wales and a good friend of the society, Derek Smith, has died aged 88. Derek and his late wife Nina (our local correspondents for the Vale of Glamorgan from 1999 to 2002) were an indomitable pair of path and amenity defenders over many years. Together they saved a pretty footpath at Wenvoe from closure by claiming it as a right of way, a battle which lasted five years. Derek was also a pillar of the Ramblers’ Welsh Council executive committee and of South Wales Area. Derek worked tirelessly for our cause and had a great sense of fun, always ready to laugh at himself too. He spent his last years in Dorchester to be near …read more

We challenge Windsor & Maidenhead Council’s ‘path-improvement’ plan

5 October 2015

We have challenged Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council for treating the new roadside footpath by Ray Mead Road north of Bridge Gardens as a permanent solution to the gap in the Thames Path National Trail beside the river bank. We were responding to the borough’s consultation on the updated Public Rights of Way Management and Improvement Plan 2016-2026. In 2005 the borough had the laudable aim in its rights of way improvement plan to ‘secure a continuation of the Thames Path in Maidenhead beside the river bank from the landing steps opposite Thames Hotel to Bridge Gardens’. In 2010 the updated plan refers to the remaining 30-metre gap necessary to complete the link to Bridge Gardens. A subsequent update in …read more

The fight against Dalton sun factory

2 October 2015

We have objected to a planning application for a solar farm on open countryside near Dalton- in-Furness, Cumbria.  The applicant, New Energy For The World, wants to develop about 30 acres and the scheme will be highly visible from the many well-used public paths in the area. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘This is a fascinating and attractive area rich in industrial history from the former iron-ore mines.  It is criss-crossed with public paths which are much used and enjoyed by the public.  The sun factory will be a ghastly eyesore for all who walk these ways.’ Says Jean Yool, a member of the Open Spaces Society and spokesperson for the residents’ group Stop Dalton Solar Farm: ‘We really …read more

We fight Disneyfication of Lake District commons

1 October 2015

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

Fence permitted on limestone beauty-spot

29 September 2015

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

‘Invisible fencing’ project at Epping Forest

This video describes the City of London’s innovative ‘invisible fencing’ project at Epping Forest developed since 2011. The project, supported financially by Natural England and in partnership with the manufacturer Lacmé, has enabled the re-establishment of free-range cattle grazing across the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The project has lowered the costs of re-establishing grazing significantly by reducing the requirement for cattle grids and traditional fencing. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, will be visiting the Forest in November to see how they are using this ‘invisible fencing’ and will report back.

A clever solution

28 September 2015

Our local correspondent for Leeds, Jerry Pearlman, has told us of an ingenious solution by Leeds City Council to prevent paths being lost in rivers such as the Wharfe. The council had a fund of about £100,000 to be used to reinstate paths which had fallen, or were in danger of falling, into watercourses. Parts of the path alongside the Wharfe in the parishes of Harewood, Kearby with Netherby and East Keswick have fallen into the river or are in danger of doing so. With the cooperation of the landowners, the council has made a number of small diversions to put the path on dry land. They call the diversion order a ‘Water Safety Order’

Reprieve for Cothill Pitt open space

22 September 2015

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