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Ten years left to #FindOurWay    Judgment in Moorside Fields, Lancashire case    Our 12-point action plan for the new National Assembly for Wales    Remember a charity in your will    Planning (Wales) Act 2015 receives royal assent    We launch our tool-kit to save open spaces    JustTextGiving to support our work    Defending the commons - new distance learning course

Articles & Comment

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

Unlawful works on common land at Epsom

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

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

14 September 2015

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

We condemn plan to restrict access to justice

10 September 2015

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

Help test new self-closing bridle gates

In 2011 The British Horse Society conducted a trial of commercially available self-closing bridle gates. The trial recorded a number of issues which meant that there was an impact on safety and ease of use by horse riders. This confirmed anecdotes that horses and riders were suffering injury; and many were being put off accessing the countryside due to fear of injury. Since then Natural England has been working in partnership with the British Horse Society and a gate manufacturer, Centrewire, to develop modifications and improvements to gates. A new trial has now being organised to look at these modifications and compare them to existing designs. The aim of the trial is to identify features which contribute to safe and …read more

United Utilities withdraws controversial Lake District fencing scheme

9 September 2015

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

Bucks common freed of unlawful fence

8 September 2015

We are delighted that unlawful fencing has been removed from Pinner Green common, near Latimer in Buckinghamshire. In 2013 it was reported that a local landowner had erected barbed-wire fencing around the small piece of common land which adjoins Blackwell Hall Lane, to prevent fly-tipping.  The land is owned by Chiltern District Council. The fencing did not have the Secretary of State for Environment’s consent, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, and was therefore unlawful.  The public has the right to walk on the common. The Buckinghamshire Local Access Forum and the Open Spaces Society pressed the local authorities to remove the unlawful fencing. Now Chiltern District Council has written to say that the barbed-wire strands have been …read more

Protest over Clapham Common quagmire

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

Stepping stones across the River Thame

1 September 2015

Our local correspondent Chris Hall writes of the society’s efforts to record a route across the River Thame in Oxfordshire as a public footpath. Three miles east of industrial Cowley, deep and peacefully remote in the meadows of the Oxford green belt, is a legal battleground at grid reference SP 601 005. As recently as 2006 the spot was labelled by the words ‘stepping stones’ on the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey (OS) maps because here people used to cross the little River Thame. In 2002 society member Hugh Crawley claimed a right of way across the river for the definitive map. Ten years later Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) rejected his claim. Hugh, a determined warrior (he landed in Normandy on D-Day …read more

New interpretation-board celebrates ancient Warwickshire meadow

28 August 2015

On Tuesday 1 September, the Open Spaces Society, Warwick District Council and the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust unveiled a new, interpretation-board on Parliament Piece.  This is a 15-acre meadow to the west of the A429 road at Kenilworth. Parliament Piece is believed to be the site of the second-oldest parliament, held by Henry III.  The land was given to the Open Spaces Society by Miss Helen Martin in 1986, and the society passed it to Warwick District Council on a 99-year lease in 1999.  The council, in conjunction with the wildlife trust, manage it for nature conservation and public access. Until now there has been nothing on the site to explain its significance, both for its history and as a nature reserve.  On …read more

Mixed decisions on Hackney Marshes developments

24 August 2015

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

Refusal of access track across historic Cumbrian common

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

We slate Derbyshire’s plan to ‘shoot itself in the foot’

19 August 2015

We have slated Derbyshire County Council’s plans to cut its budget for public rights of way and reduce the staff, significantly lengthening the time it takes to deal with path problems.  We say the council is shooting itself in the foot. We have responded to the council’s questionnaire in which the council proposes severely to slacken its performance on its legal duties. Says Barry Thomas, our local correspondent for South Derbyshire District: ‘Over the past ten years there has been a steady improvement in the rights of way in Derbyshire that must not be allowed to slip away.  If we are not able to call on a properly-staffed and resourced rights-of-way team, we shall all find it harder to raise …read more

The Elinor Ostrom Award for practitioners: video

17 August 2015

The society was proud to receive the first Elinor Ostrom Award for practitioners, two years ago in Japan.  This time, our general secretary Kate Ashbrook was one of the judges.  She went to the biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) in Edmonton, Canada, in May and presented the practitioners’ award to Abdon Nababan on behalf of AMAN, the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago.  You can see the video of the ceremony here. AMAN works across Indonesia to defend community rights to the commons.  It has used a range of campaigning techniques.  For instance, it has lobbied the government to secure the rights and access of indigenous people. Importantly, it challenged the government in court …read more

Unlawful building on Clapham Common must stop

13 August 2015

  Lambeth Council has been unlawfully permitting large structures to be built on Clapham Common and the practice must stop.  We have been provided with advice from an eminent QC confirming that Lambeth Council has been flouting legislation designed to protect the borough’s parks and open spaces. Over recent years the council has allowed a number of events involving the erection of huge structures, usually surrounded by large enclosures.  In many cases the common has been left damaged as a result, and the council has received numerous complaints from residents and local groups, including the Friends of Clapham Common. As confirmed by the QC the council cannot permit these structures without first receiving ministerial consent from the Secretary of State …read more

Hundreds enjoy Big Picnic on Wycombe Rye to celebrate 50th anniversary of its rescue

9 August 2015

We are delighted that the Big Picnic, which we organised jointly with the High Wycombe Society on Wycombe Rye on Sunday 9 August, was a huge success. The event was to celebrate the rescue of The Rye from a road scheme 50 years ago as well as marking our 150th anniversary. Says Jackie Kay, the High Wycombe Society’s chairman: ‘We are thrilled that so many people came to enjoy the Rye in glorious sunshine.  Families who had moved away returned to celebrate this special anniversary.  There were many happy reunions here on The Rye on Sunday.’ Adds Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘Fifty years ago we helped the Rye Protection Society, the forerunner of the High Wycombe Society, to save …read more

We fight threat to Guildford’s unique commons

We have written to Guildford Borough Council’s head of development, Barry Fagg, calling on the council to abandon its plan to use three areas of common land close to Guildford in Surrey as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). This is proposed to compensate for development close to the Special Protection Area (SPA) of Whitmoor Common Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Developers are legally required to provide alternative open space when they wish to build close to an SPA, the highest form of protection under European legislation. This is to ensure that the development does not increase the pressure for public recreation on the sensitive SPA. However, Natural England, the government’s adviser on nature conservation and recreation, has produced guidelines …read more

Beautiful scenery needs to be seen

6 August 2015

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, talks to That’s Oxford TV about the society’s work in ensuring that the countryside is accessible to all and remains so.

Commons registration: a half century

5 August 2015

Fifty years ago today, 5 August 1965, the Commons Registration Act became law. The Open Spaces Society had pressed for the registration of commons for decades, and it was one of the principal recommendations of the Royal Commission on Common Land in 1958. During the passage of the Commons Registration Bill the society secured a number of improvements. Two in particular were important. One, to section 4, enabled any member of the public to make applications to register land as common (initially this was limited to people with a legal interest in the land). The other was a new section 9, which gave local authorities the same power as the owner to protect unclaimed common land. The period for registration …read more

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

3 August 2015

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

Silver jubilee of village-green revival

31 July 2015

It is twenty-five years since the gates reopened to allow people to register land as a village green where that land had failed to be registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965.  On 1 August 1990, a quarter of a century ago, the society led the way in advising people what they could do, with stories in the national and local press. The Commons Registration Act 1965 required all applications for the registration of commons and village greens to be submitted by 2 January 1970, with a further six months allowed for local-authority registrations without applications.  On 1 August 1970 the registers were closed (although applications could be made for land which subsequently became a common or green).  Section 10 of the act said that the registration …read more

Common land at East Pit, Neath Port Talbot, should be treasured not trashed

27 July 2015

We have objected strongly to an application to develop common land at East Pit, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen in Neath Port Talbot. Last month the county borough council approved plans from The Lakes at Rhosaman Ltd to extend the existing opencast site closer to communities.  The planning permission will allow coaling to take place until 30 September 2018 and restoration work, which involves turning the void caused by the opencast work into a massive lake, will continue until 31 March 2020.  The proposed development also includes an outline application to erect a 120-bedroom hotel, holiday lodges, dive centre, shops, roads and other associated works.   Much of this is on registered common land. The society is among the many objectors to the scheme.   Although …read more

Championing Chiltern commons

As the Chilterns Commons Project comes to an end, project officer Rachel Sanderson reflects on its achievements. In the south-east of England, a large number of small commons provide important recreational facilities for people in urban and semi-urban communities.  Over the last four years, the Chilterns Commons Project, run by the Chilterns Conservation Board, has been championing the 200 or so commons in the Chilterns (see map). The Chilterns are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which stretches from the River Thames at Goring in Oxfordshire north-east to Hitchin in Hertfordshire, covering 324 square miles.  As in many lowland areas, most commoners’ rights were extinguished following the 1965 Commons Registration Act and, of those which remain, only a handful …read more

The Royal Commission on Common Land at 60

25 July 2015

Today, 25 July, marks the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment by parliament of the Royal Commission on Common Land in 1955.  The commission made far-reaching recommendations for the future of commons in England and Wales. The society had been pressing for a royal commission for some time.  In October 1953 it asked the Minister of Agriculture for this.  It had been concerned by the tenor of a debate in the House of Lords in July 1953 on derelict land and agriculture in which there was a call to make commons more productive.  Consequently, the society pressed the Ministry of Agriculture for a high-level, broad investigation of commons. The commission was made up of erudite persons, charged to recommend what changes, if any, are …read more

Building on Anglesey common shows need for new local-authority duty on commons

24 July 2015

We are dismayed that Anglesey County Council has refused to take enforcement action against unlawful works on registered common land at Glanrafon, Llangoed. In March this year we wrote to Mrs Dilys Lowe, the owner of common land at Glandwr Cottage, Glarafon, to ask her to stop building a bungalow on the common.  Mrs Lowe has not replied. Mrs Lowe has planning permission but has been told by Anglesey County Council and others that is it unlawful unless she obtains the consent of the Welsh Ministers either for works on common land, or to exchange the common for other suitable land.  She apparently ignored this advice and sent in the diggers to start laying the foundations for her new house.  …read more

What’s best in Britain?

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

Improved scheme at Whitwell Common, Norfolk

We are pleased to have won improvements to a scheme, proposed by the Whitwell Common Trust, to fence part of the common near Reepham in Norfolk. The trust proposed to fence the common to enable the fen habitat to be grazed by livestock, in the interests of biodiversity.  The society was concerned that the fencing would be permanent and asked for the consent to be limited to 15 years so that its efficacy could be reviewed.  It also wanted there to be more access points on the road which runs between Reepham and the Fakenham Road.  The public has the right to walk and ride over the whole common. After an exchange of correspondence, the trust agreed to make the …read more

Giving Henley a hand for Entente Florale

20 July 2015

At the invitation of our member Henley-on-Thames Town Council our general secretary Kate Ashbrook spent part of our 150th birthday on Sunday meeting the judges of the Entente Florale European competition.  The council had entered for the award, having been nominated by a Britain in Bloom judge. The ten judges came from all over Europe, and included landscape architects and tourism journalists. Kate joined them at Jan Mirkowski’s Fairmile Vineyard on the west side of Henley.  They travelled to the top in a trailer.   From the top there is a fine view towards Stonor, a typical Chiltern scene unmarred by development. Kate talked to the group about the importance of open spaces in and around Henley, the contribution of the …read more

Lord Eversley’s message to members, 19 July 1915

One hundred years ago, on 19 July 1915 the fiftieth anniversary of the society’s foundation, our president and chairman Lord Eversley gave an address to the members.  It is published in a 16-page booklet marked, for some reason, ‘confidential’.  Here is a summary of what he said. On the 19th of July, 1865, fifty years ago to a day, the first Meeting of the Commons Preservation Society was held, at which I was elected its Chairman.  I have held that position continuously with the exception of short intervals when, as a member of Mr. Gladstone’s Government, it was inconsistent with my official duties that I should do so. He goes on to name others who were involved, such as Mr Fawcett, …read more

Counting our battle honours

17 July 2015

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

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

16 July 2015

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

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

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

Private garage refused on Cornwall common

13 July 2015

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

Our AGM marks ups and downs for green spaces

9 July 2015

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

South Wales commons saved from industrial development

8 July 2015

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

Commercial camping development on national park common is rejected

7 July 2015

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

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

6 July 2015

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

Land swap on Cornish common is dropped

2 July 2015

Mr Robert Weedon has withdrawn his plan to swap common land at Pendarves Woods Common, a mile south-west of Camborne in Cornwall.  We had objected. Works had been constructed unlawfully on the common over a period since 2008.  In March, Mr Weedon applied to the Secretary of State for Environment to swap the area of common land which is occupied by part of a sand-school, parking areas and track, fuel pumps and tank, and post-and-rail fencing.  He offered land in exchange which the Open Spaces Society and others considered to be inferior and so they objected. Now he has withdrawn the application. We are delighted at this news.  We considered that the exchange was not in the public interest.  We shall …read more

North York Moors National Park authority approves York Potash application

1 July 2015

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

Withdrawal of Stevenage common enclosure plans

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

Wind turbines rejected on Rooley Moor, Rochdale

30 June 2015

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

Land at Breaky Bottom open to the public

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

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

24 June 2015

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

Good news for fighters against Reeves Hill wind turbines

16 June 2015

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

The Big Pathwatch

15 June 2015

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

We fight enclosure of Stevenage common

14 June 2015

We have objected to a plan by Stevenage Borough Council to fence off part of Norton Green Common on the south-west side of Stevenage in Hertfordshire, immediately to the west of the A1(M). The council has applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent to erect works on common land under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. Norton Green Common is a long, broad strip of land, running north-south, over which the public has the right to walk and ride.  The council want to fence off the southern part to enable it to be grazed for nature-conservation reasons.  The common is part of the Knebworth Site of Special Scientific Interest.  The council proposes to install a gate in the part …read more

How to defend the commons

12 June 2015

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

OSS signs up to Access to Justice statement

11 June 2015

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

Talking commons in Canada

The biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) was held this year in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Kate Ashbrook attended,  generously funded by the Elinor Ostrom Award of which the society was a winner in 2013. Here is her summary of her visit. I travelled with John Powell from the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) of Gloucestershire University, with whom I am working on an international online course on campaigning for commons.  He was tied up in meetings some of the time and I was free to explore the area before the conference started. Although the town of Edmonton is not very interesting,  it has the longest stretch of parkland in north America, extending beside the North Saskatchewan …read more

Fighting on

10 June 2015

‘Opinion’ by our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was published in the summer 2015 issue of Open Space. When David Cameron announced on 8 May that he was forming a government, he boasted of his achievements over the last five years and what he would do in the next five. Not surprisingly there was no mention of the environment.  Indeed, it is hard to think of much that the coalition government did do for the environment—beyond the welcome Deregulation Act which will aid the addition of paths to the definitive maps and the acceleration of coastal access. For the government schmoozed with its cronies, the developers.  By the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 it outlawed registration of land as a green …read more

Yateley Common fencing-plan withdrawn

5 June 2015

Hampshire County Council and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have withdrawn their controversial plan to erect fencing on Yateley Common.  They had applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, to erect 24 kilometres of fencing on the common to enable it to be grazed. The common is heathland and part of it is a site of special scientific interest and special protection area.  The applicants believe that the introduction of grazing is the most effective and sustainable way to protect this protected and precious habitat and prevent scrub and woodland encroachment. However, in view of the many objections, they have withdrawn the current application and are considering a modified …read more

Shepherd’s Bush tower quashed

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has rejected plans for a tower next to Shepherd’s Bush Common in west London. Dorsett Hospitality International had applied for planning permission to demolish the existing former Walkabout building and replace it with a 16-storey tower. The council decided that the proposed development was ‘unacceptable in the interests of visual amenity and its impact on the historic environment’.  It would ‘far exceed the prevailing height of the surrounding built environment, and would appear as an isolated, intrusive feature, failing to respect its townscape context in terms of scale, massing form and detailed design’. In addition, ‘it would dominate the skyline in views from Shepherd’s Bush Conservation Area, and would fail to preserve or …read more

Booker housing plans rejected

We are delighted that planning inspector Christa Masters has rejected plans to build two houses next to Booker Common and a public bridleway in Buckinghamshire.  Mr P Wells appealed against Wycombe District Council’s refusal of his application for two detached dwellings next to the former Live and Let Live pub. The developers appeared to ignore the fact that the houses would be right next to the common and to a public bridleway enjoyed by walkers, riders and cyclists, in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The development would have marred the enjoyment of the many people who love the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful wooded common and the many traffic-movements would have put users of the bridleway at …read more

International commons conference in Canada

24 May 2015

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, is in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for the biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC), 25-29 May.  She has been generously funded by the Elinor Ostrom Award, which the society won in 2013. The society is keen to encourage the IASC to embrace practitioners who are campaigning for the commons, in parallel with academics, since both depend on each other—practitioners need independent, reliable evidence to support their campaigns, and academics need the practitioners to commission their work. Commons are not just land, as we know them in England and Wales, but include air, water, forests, gene pools, the internet and much else, a common interest being the uniting feature. Kate is on …read more

Major victory for green spaces of Wales

21 May 2015

The Welsh Government has decided not to ape England’s village-greens law. In December 2013 we learnt that the Welsh Government was proposing, in its Planning (Wales) Bill, to copy the provisions of England’s egregious Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 for greens.  In other words, it proposed that applications for greens should be outlawed when land had been identified for planning, even though that process was often secret and people could not have known their much-loved green spaces were threatened.  We said that these proposals struck at the heart of local communities, preventing them from securing the land they have long enjoyed. We swung into action, urging our members in Wales to tell us of greens which would not have been registered under the new law and …read more

We fight fence on limestone beauty-spot

20 May 2015

We are fighting 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. Farleton Knott, close to the M6 three miles east of Milnthorpe, is a limestone hill of outstanding natural beauty and interest for its geology and flora and fauna.  The application has been made on behalf of the commoners by the landowner, the Dallam Tower Estate. The applicant wants to fence the road in order to introduce grazing and to prevent unauthorised access by mountain and trail bikes.  Because the fence is on common land, the applicant needs the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the …read more

Welsh village greens rescued from damaging law-change

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