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Articles & Comment

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

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

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

Private garage refused on Cornwall common

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

We object to path change in Wenvoe, South Wales

19 May 2015

We have objected to a plan to move a beautiful footpath at Wenvoe, in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Vale of Glamorgan Council has consulted interested parties on a plan to move Wenvoe footpath 21 in connection with a development to the west of Port Road. The council wants to shift the path next to the new development. The path, a historic route which runs from east of Burdonshill north to Wenvoe Wood and thence into Wenvoe, is shown on maps going back to the late nineteenth century. There is no need to move the path in order to carry out the development and we cannot understand why the council is doing this. The path itself is a historic route …read more

Henley RBL learns about Open Spaces Society

18 May 2015

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

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

14 May 2015

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

Land at Breaky Bottom open to the public after OSS action

13 May 2015

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

The postwar revolution that altered the English countryside

12 May 2015

On 11 May, BBC East marked VE Day: First Days of Peace with a programme on the postwar revolution that altered the English countryside into a landscape that could not only feed the nation but also be seen as a place of leisure. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, spoke to Ben Robinson and you can hear her contribution approximately 24 minutes into the programme here.

Accessing Nature funding programme

7 May 2015

This summer SITA Trust will launch its new Accessing Nature programme which will fund capital works to increase and improve opportunities for access to the great outdoors. They will be accepting England-wide applications for a range of projects including, but not limited to: providing access to nature reserves and wildlife areas, creating community pond-dipping areas or bird- watching hides, and installing wildlife interpretation. The SITA Trust team will be developing this programme over the coming months and will open the application process to not-for-profit organisations across England. The programme manager will be Pete Sessions.

The commons’ people

2 May 2015

This article by our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was published in the spring 2015 issue of the Campaign to Protect Rural England‘s magazine Countryside Voice. The name ‘common’ is scattered all over maps of England. But that does not mean the land is common today—rather the word is a memento from a time when much of England was common land. Commons date back to before the Middle Ages, when land tended to be communally shared. People depended on the commons for their livelihoods—grazing animals, digging peat for fuel, collecting bracken for bedding and branches and twigs for repairing their properties, and taking fish, sand and gravel. The inclosure movement—which occurred sporadically at first and then intensely in the eighteenth and nineteenth …read more

Happy birthday Pennine Way

24 April 2015

Fifty years ago today, on 24 April 1965, the Pennine Way was opened.  This was the first of Britain’s long-distance paths (now called national trails in England and Wales) and the event took place on Malham Moor with the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, Fred Willey, in attendance.     The path was the inspiration of Tom Stephenson, secretary of the Ramblers and a committee member of the Open Spaces Society.  The opening was the fulfilment of a 30-year dream.  In 1935 Tom received a letter from two American girls asking for advice about a tramping holiday in England and mentioning their acquaintance with the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.  Tom was outdoor writer for the Daily Herald and was inspired to publish …read more

We object to ugly tower above Shepherd’s Bush Common

22 April 2015

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

We fight access track across historic common

13 April 2015

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

We celebrate the partial opening of Panshanger Park

2 April 2015

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

Outsized development in Chiltern valley

30 March 2015

We have objected to a further attempt to redevelop Valentine Farm in the Hambleden Valley. The site is near Skirmett, in the heart of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Buckinghamshire. The applicants, Mr and Mrs Neil Woodford, want to build a two-storey, five-bedroom ‘Arts and Crafts’-style house, with garage store, detached leisure building and associated amenity space. They have tried in the past to make the site into an equestrian complex, but this was refused by Wycombe District Council. The proposed buildings, consisting of a large house with appendages, would be the equivalent of a new hamlet in open countryside. This is an unspoilt valley and the location is extremely sensitive, in the heart of the AONB. …read more

New book to celebrate our commons

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

Unfair land swap on Cornish common

27 March 2015

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

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

25 March 2015

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

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

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

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

24 March 2015

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

Law denied

23 March 2015

While researching our 150-year history, I have been struck repeatedly by the number of times we have taken or backed court action.  So writes our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, in her Opinion in the latest edition of our magazine Open Space. Indeed, had we not gone to the courts to assert the rights of commoners and to prevent enclosures, few of London’s commons would now survive.  Later we used the courts to reopen public paths. More recently we have taken action against the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at Wisley Common in Surrey (2004), and backed cases to establish the law on village greens at the turn of this century. The society has relied on the courts to make and …read more

We welcome proposed commons council for Bodmin Moor

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

We say ‘no’ to the Lowthers

20 March 2015

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

Proposed ‘environmental trust’ is irrelevant

17 March 2015

The announcement by the Circuit of Wales developers that they intend to set up an ecological trust to fund environmental improvements around the development site at Ebbw Vale is irrelevant. The society is to appear at the public inquiry on Thursday [19 March] in opposition to the developers’ proposals for exchange of common land. The inquiry is restricted to considering the relative merits of the land offered in exchange for the square mile of common to be taken. We shall argue that the seven sites which are offered in exchange are grossly inferior.  The existing common is open to walkers and horse-riders who have the right to walk and ride over every part of it.  The exchange land is in …read more

Historic Gloucestershire field is saved as a village green

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

Chunks of the Lake District National Park to be sold

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

New tool-kit to save open spaces

16 March 2015

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

We call on landowner to stop destroying Anglesey common

13 March 2015

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

We celebrate our 150-year struggle for open spaces

9 March 2015

We have published our new book, Saving Open Spaces, the story of our 150-year struggle for commons, greens, open spaces and paths.  It is written by our general secretary for 31 years, Kate Ashbrook. The society was formed in 1865 as the Commons Preservation Society to rescue London’s threatened commons—Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common and Epping Forest for instance—before going on to found the National Trust in 1895.  It soon expanded its remit to cover the whole of England and Wales, and to embrace all types of open spaces and public paths.  It is responsible for much of the legislation which protects these places today. Charts The book charts the society’s activities through the years—one of the most socially-vital campaigns of …read more

Cock-up of Wales

2 March 2015

Two years ago the society objected to the planning application for the Circuit of Wales motor-sports development on common land, just north of Ebbw Vale in south Wales.  At that time the developer, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, stated optimistically and inaccurately on its website that ‘planning permission is the final hurdle’. Although the development now has planning permission it has not yet gone ahead—because it would take common land.  There are many who claim that the objectors are holding up a development which will bring jobs and prosperity to the area.  Their ire should be directed at the developers who opted to site the motor circuit on a common.  For the applicant has had to find land to offer …read more

We fight plan to replace wind turbines on Cumbrian commons

27 February 2015

We have objected to plans by RWE Innogy to replace the wind turbines on common land at Kirkby Moor, Cumbria, with much bigger ones. When the planning consent for the 12 turbines expires in 2018, Pegasus plans to replace them with six turbines which are more than twice the height.  Whereas the current turbines are 42.2 metres blade-tip height, the new ones would be 115 metres.  The moor, eight miles north of Barrow-in-Furness, abuts the southern boundary of the Lake District National Park. The proposed development is on common land and the applicants claim that they will exchange the existing common for land on the edge.  This will require ministerial consent under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. Says Kate …read more

Wind turbines will rip the heart out of Rochdale common

26 February 2015

We have objected most strongly to a planning application from Coronation Power Ltd, to build 12 wind turbines and associated structures on common land north of Rochdale.  The proposed development is on Rooley Moor common. It is extraordinary that the applicants should have chosen to construct this development on common land, where both walkers and horse-riders have rights of access, and which is of immense public importance for its landscape qualities. The development will rip the heart out of the common and also interfere with the Pennine Bridleway long-distance path.  The turbines themselves will be a severe eyesore in this open landscape which is a vital green lung for nearby city-dwellers. The developers propose to swap the common land underneath …read more

Norfolk footpath to stay put

We are delighted that, thanks to our objection, a public footpath in Norfolk’s Breckland District will remain on its ancient, direct route. The footpath is at Lyng, four miles south of Reepham.  Breckland District Council wanted to move the route which runs past the property Patholme.  The council was concerned that the existence of the path was detrimental to the interests of the property’s occupiers, and wanted to shove the path around the edge of the field to the west, introducing two dog-legs. Mr Ian Witham, the Open Spaces Society’s representative in Norfolk, objected on behalf of the society and the matter was referred to the Planning Inspectorate for determination. The inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, did not consider that there …read more

A black day for greens

25 February 2015

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

Panshanger Park event on 31 March

On 31 March 2014, the opening day of Panshanger Country Park East in Hertfordshire, over one hundred Friends of Panshanger Park and local walkers set off on the friends’ People’s Walk, from Hertingfordbury into the long overdue country park.  Since then the eastern end of the park has been much welcomed and enjoyed by thousands of people.  However there are huge areas of the park still to be opened, including areas with some of the park’s finest features such as the Broadwater and the Panshanger Great Oak. To demonstrate the community’s concern about these continuing and unnecessary delays, the friends are holding the People’s Anniversary Walk on Tuesday 31 March 2015.  Walkers will enter from all sides of the park and meet at Riverside Cottage at 11am. …read more

Decisions for Haven Green common, Ealing

19 February 2015

Our member, the Friends of Haven Green (FoHG), is pleased to report two decisions from the Planning Inspectorate concerning Haven Green, Ealing. The first stems from last September’s public inquiry into Ealing Council’s planned changes to the green in preparation for Crossrail.  These would have widened the pavements, and created a counter-flow cycle lane on the east side of the green.  The society and FoHG objected to the plans because as it is common land the green is protected by national legislation for future generations to enjoy as open space.  FoHG spoke for the society too, and the inspector accepted all our main arguments and refused to approve the council’s proposals.  He gave permission only to resurfacing existing footpaths. This is unlikely to …read more

New Forest solar farm rejected

The New Forest National Park Authority’s planning committee has unanimously rejected plans for an ugly solar ‘farm’ in the national park. The application was from MTS Exbury Solar Ltd for a solar farm on nine hectares of land east of Lepe Farm, Exbury.  The society sent an objection to the national park planning authority urging it to reject the application. We are delighted that the committee has so resolutely refused the application.  Such a development would have conflicted with national park purposes, particularly in this sensitive location. The development would have ruined people’s enjoyment of the Lepe Loop, an attractive five-mile walking route on coast and through countryside, promoted by Hampshire County Council.  It would also have set a damaging …read more

The fight to stop green-belt solar farm

17 February 2015

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

Thames Path to be consigned to a rat run in Maidenhead

13 February 2015

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

Lake District fencing plan conflicts with special Act of Parliament

11 February 2015

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

We fight land swap for Beverley’s ancient common

6 February 2015

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

Retrospective application for works on Cornish common

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

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

2 February 2015

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

Plaque in memory of Pat Wilson

30 January 2015

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

Common landscapes

20 January 2015

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

We object to further assault on Nuneaton’s old common

19 January 2015

We have objected to further plans from Gladman Developments Ltd to build 262 houses on former common land at Plough Hill Road, Nuneaton, Warwickshire.  The land is known as Galley Common and is of historical significance. We have repeatedly objected to applications to build on this site and are dismayed that the developers persist with their proposals. The proposed 262 houses will obviously suburbanise this lovely area and interfere with three nearby public footpaths. The development will destroy the historic integrity of land which was once common but was inclosed in the nineteenth century.  The history of the site is written in the ancient hedgerows. We have urged Nuneaton and Bedworth Council to reject the application.

Welsh Assembly debates Circuit of Wales

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

Thomas Hardy would breathe a sigh of relief

15 January 2015

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

Pressure groups fight fencing plan in Lake District’s wilderness

14 January 2015

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

New call for Thames Path riverside route

6 January 2015

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

Footpath in Godstone, Surrey, has been saved

5 January 2015

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

We fight solar farm in New Forest National Park

2 January 2015

MTS Exbury Solar Ltd has applied to build a solar farm on nine hectares of land east of Lepe Farm, Exbury in the New Forest National Park.  We have objected and urged the national park authority to reject the application. We consider that such a development is inappropriate in a national park, which is our top landscape designation.  The panels would be an ugly intrusion in unspoilt countryside.  Although the applicants claim they are ‘temporary’, they would remain in place for 25 years which is as good as permanent. In particular we are concerned that the development would have an adverse effect on people’s enjoyment of the Lepe Loop, an attractive five-mile walking route on coast and through countryside, promoted …read more

Our 150th birthday

31 December 2014

This year, 2015, we celebrate our 150th anniversary—the first national conservation body to do so. Founded on 19 July 1865 as the Commons Preservation Society we first saved London commons from destruction and 30 years later created the National Trust—and we are still fighting. Now the society campaigns throughout England and Wales to protect common land, greens, open spaces and public paths. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, says: ‘A century and a half ago no one would have thought that today there would be at least 2,212 square miles (an area roughly the size of Lincolnshire) of common land in England and Wales. This is because of the campaigns led by the Open Spaces Society to ensure that commons and …read more

Dismay at decision to keep Cornish rail-crossing closed

27 December 2014

A public-inquiry inspector has ruled that the footpath across the railway line near Penzance in Cornwall is to remain closed. The society backed its member, the Friends of Long Rock Mexico Crossing (FOLRMC), the Ramblers and other objectors to the proposed closure of the crossing at the Mexico Inn, Long Rock, Penzance. The case was heard at a seven-day public inquiry in October. Now the inspector, Heidi Cruickshank, has determined that the route should be closed on safety grounds. This crossing provides an important short-cut for walkers. It has been closed since a fatal accident in October 2011. The alternative route is nearly a kilometre long. The inspector was required to decide whether it was expedient to close the crossing …read more

Landscapes for everyone

23 December 2014

Great Britain’s diverse landscapes need champions. A consortium of national organisations has taken up the challenge. We have a shared vision of why our unique British landscapes should be protected for the benefit of current and future generations and what Government action is needed. Read more here. The official launch of ‘Landscapes for everyone’ will take place on 20 January 2015 and we will be publishing updates in the new year.

Wycombe Council rejects plans which threatened common and bridleway

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

Doors open to rescue lost commons in Cumbria and North Yorkshire

12 December 2014

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

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

8 December 2014

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

Shropshire beauty-spot under siege

27 November 2014

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

Commons and the Law training workshop from the Chilterns Commons Project

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

Thomas Hardy would turn in his grave

25 November 2014

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

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

24 November 2014

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

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

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

Firle Estate – tax free and for what?

19 November 2014

The Firle Estate, near Lewes in East Sussex contains some of the most iconic walking landscape in the country, including the Firle Beacon stretch of the South Downs Way. So it might not surprise you to learn that the Estate has obtained exemption from inheritance tax (2) on nearly all the estate (3) in return for keeping the estate in good condition and allowing public access. This is a considerable tax concession and one that many home owners in the South-East would like to have. But what are we getting for our money? An examination of the agreements made between the estate and the government show that all we seem to have got are two short footpaths: 1) South from …read more

Destructive mineral plan for Trent Valley

18 November 2014

We have objected strongly to plans for mineral extraction in the Shelford Valley on the Trent in Nottinghamshire.  The society is backing Save Shelford Valley in its opposition to this development. The plan is to take minerals from land embraced by a meander of the River Trent.  This would be extremely destructive of open countryside, public paths and public enjoyment of this lovely area. The proposed works would destroy part of the Trent Valley Way, the 166-mile route devised to celebrate the centenary of Nottinghamshire County Council.  It seems extraordinary that the council should contemplate the destruction of something which was created to celebrate itself! This route and its connecting paths are enormously important to the many communities in the …read more

Good Hants, bad Hants?

12 November 2014

Hampshire County Council has a long, solid record in good countryside-management. For decades the council has led in providing better access for all and in countryside interpretation. It owns a number of well-managed country parks, commons and nature reserves. It pioneers a lottery-funded project, Providing Access to Hampshire’s Heritage (PATHH), to recruit and train volunteers to research claims for historic paths. With us and others it produced a video on the management of commons. It processes greens applications in an applicant-friendly way. Hampshire exudes good practice. Statements But now it is adopting bad practice. It is depositing statements and placing notices on its land stating that it does not accept that any rights exist there beyond those already recorded on …read more

We object to new houses next to Booker Common and bridleway

We have objected to a planning application from Bramley Homes for two houses on land next to the former Live and Let Live pub at Booker Common, High Wycombe, Bucks.  The society is concerned that the development could have an adverse effect on the adjoining Booker Common and public bridleway. The planning statement does not refer to the common or the bridleway, the developers seem oblivious of the need to protect them. Instead they refer to access being by ‘the existing lane’ but that so-called lane is in fact a public bridleway enjoyed by walkers, riders and cyclists. These users could be inconvenienced and even endangered by the construction vehicles. This is a tranquil area in the Chilterns Area of …read more

Campaigners condemn common-land swap for motorsport development

11 November 2014

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

Henley’s hat-trick for public paths and access

9 November 2014

The society has praised Henley Town Council for a hat-trick of successes on public paths and public access. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was speaking at the opening of the footpath which has been dedicated by the town council on 8 November. Said Kate: ‘Henley Town Council is triple tops when it comes to paths and public enjoyment. ‘First it dedicated Gillotts Field as a village green in 2010, giving local people rights of informal recreation there and ensuring that the land is protected in perpetuity. ‘Secondly, earlier this year it resisted Oxfordshire County Council’s request to contribute to the prioritisation of public paths, which in these stringent times could lead to a downgrading of some routes. ‘And thirdly, it has …read more

We defend village greens in Welsh Government inquiry

7 November 2014

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

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

5 November 2014

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

Hendy wind-turbines conflict with law to protect public rights

The society has discovered new information which could jeopardise the Hendy wind-turbine development in outstanding countryside in rural Radnorshire. The land on which Hendy Wind Farm Ltd proposes to erect at least four of the seven turbines, near Llandegley Rocks, Llandrindod Wells, was inclosed by an order for Hendy Bank made in 1885 which provided for permanent public access on the site. Furthermore, the company, in taking part of the adjoining common land to create an access for heavy construction vehicles, is obliged to offer suitable land in exchange. The exchange land is also awarded land (Llandegley Rhos, 1885). This means the public already has a right to walk there and the exchange offers nothing. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general …read more

We fight devastation of Radnorshire’s jewel

3 November 2014

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

Peer’s development plan threatens Lake District World Heritage status

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

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

31 October 2014

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

Beauty-spot sun factory is rejected

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

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

28 October 2014

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

We oppose plan to close vital Cornish rail-crossing

21 October 2014

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

Path to Ramsgate Harbour confirmed

20 October 2014

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

Urbanisation of unspoilt Herefordshire countryside

17 October 2014

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

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

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

Riverside path at Purfleet re-opens after nearly 20 years

16 October 2014

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

Government website advises landowners to break the law

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

We fight development of Stockport’s green lung

15 October 2014

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

Local correspondents’ summit

11 October 2014

Our local correspondents, our eyes and ears on the ground, are meeting this weekend at Hillscourt conference centre, Rednal, at the foot of the Lickey Hills in Worcestershire. There are a number of sessions on enforcement on public paths, protecting their full width and ensuring that all structures are friendly to users; saving greens and other open spaces; protecting common land and access, and claiming unrecorded routes. It’s a great opportunity for our representatives to swap ideas and experience and debate knotty issues. On Saturday afternoon, the volunteers took a walk on the Lickey Hills. We are grateful to the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust for financial support for the weekend.

Oxfordshire County Council plans Cinderella paths to save money

8 October 2014

We have urged 51 town and parish councils in Oxfordshire to reject Oxfordshire County Council’s plan to categorise local paths according to their use.  The county has written to a number of local councils encouraging them to consider this.  The society advises that this could lead to less-well-used paths being relegated so that they become obstructed and overgrown. Henley Town Council has already followed the society’s advice and rejected the county’s proposals. The county council, the highway authority responsible for Oxfordshire’s public footpaths and bridleways, has asked the local councils to take part in a trial approach to categorising the paths, ‘to identify key routes that locals and visitors use, in order to focus efforts on higher priority issues, and …read more

Wales apes England and proposes law which will destroy village greens

6 October 2014

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

Wales apes England in changing law to destroy village greens

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

Victory against destructive Somerset solar farm

2 October 2014

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

Delay to implementation of Part 1, Commons Act 2006

1 October 2014

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

Henley council rejects path discrimination

29 September 2014

We have congratulated Henley Town Council on refusing to comply with Oxfordshire County Council’s plan to categorise local paths according to their use.  Councillors, advised by the society, considered that this could lead to less-well-used paths being relegated so that they become obstructed and overgrown. The county council, the highway authority responsible for Oxfordshire’s public footpaths and bridleways, asked the council to take part in a trial approach to categorising the paths, ‘to identify key routes that locals and visitors use, in order to focus efforts on higher priority issues, and to meet community needs’. The town council asked the Open Spaces Society, of which it is a member, to advise it on a response. The society wrote that the …read more

Public hearing for Ealing’s Haven Green

24 September 2014

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

Saving an important route in Cwmcarn Forest, Caerphilly

22 September 2014

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

Saving our green spaces

If you want to save your open space you need to get involved. Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook tells you how.   Communities need to be on their toes if they want to rescue their much-loved spaces from developers. The opportunity to register them as town or village greens has recently diminished in England, and the Welsh Government threatens to follow suit (although we are strenuously resisting this). Town and village greens are land where local people have enjoyed informal recreation, for at least 20 years, without challenge or permission. Once the land has been registered by the county or unitary authority (the registration authority) as a green it is protected from development. Greens were first registered under the Commons …read more

A blight on Hackney Marshes

12 September 2014

We have objected to plans from the London Borough of Hackney to develop part of Hackney Marshes (East) for a car park and (North) for a pavilion with car park.  We are backing our member the Hackney Marshes User Group which has for some time been protesting about the proposals.  The marshes are registered common land and we have written to the Planning Inspectorate objecting to the application for works on the common. The developments will take away green space from the public and will suburbanise the area.  The car parks will create noise and pollution and are unnecessary when there is good local transport and alternative car parks nearby.  The pavilion will be for a limited sector of the public whereas …read more

Railway-crossing path saved

10 September 2014

The society and the Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and West Middlesex Ramblers are delighted that they have helped to save a popular footpath which crosses the railway line just south of Griffin Lane, north-west Aylesbury. Network Rail, backed by Bucks County Council, wanted to close the path on alleged safety grounds.  They intended that people would instead walk a much longer route alongside the busy link-road between industrial estates and the A418. Because the plan was opposed, it was determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  The inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, visited the site and issued her decision on 3 September. Network Rail argued that there was misuse of the crossing …read more

Gordon Garland, 1921-2013

8 September 2014

Gordon Eric Garland, who died last year aged 91, was a long-standing member of the society and an effective, enthusiastic, campaigner for paths and open spaces.  Gordon spent his 91 years in Hollingbury Park Avenue, Brighton. He is remembered for his tremendous, generosity and support; someone who unselfishly and tirelessly devoted his time, influence, and energies for the causes about which he cared most passionately.  The Open Spaces Society was one of a long list which included the National Trust, South Downs Society, Ancient Monuments Society, Sussex Archaeological Society, Inland Waterways and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.  English Heritage has bestowed an honorary dedication to Gordon in its English Heritage Book of Remembrance located at the Jewel Tower, Westminster. …read more

We oppose development of Nuneaton’s old common

We have objected to plans from Gladman Developments Ltd to build 262 houses on former common land at Plough Hill Road, Nuneaton, Warwickshire.  The land is known as Galley Common and is of historical significance. We are dismayed that it is proposed to develop this land.  It will suburbanise this attractive area and spoil people’s enjoyment of three public footpaths in the vicinity.  The development will destroy the historic integrity of the site, which was once common land.  It was inclosed in the nineteenth century but the history of the site is written in its ancient hedgerows. We have urged Nuneaton and Bedworth Council to reject the application.

Beverley Westwood exchange-plan ditched

4 September 2014

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council has ditched its plans to swap land on the ancient Beverley Westwood Common for a small piece on the northern edge.  This was to accommodate a cycle track across the common. Because there were objections to the swap, the Planning Inspectorate was to hold a hearing on 28 October, but this has been cancelled with the council’s announcement that it is abandoning this plan. We are relieved that this scheme is dead.  We opposed the exchange because the replacement land was remote and largely inaccessible, on the far side of what is believed to be an ancient boundary of the common.  The land to be taken for the cycle track was across the middle …read more

Government boosts coastal access and parks

3 September 2014

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

Saltney Ferry open space saved

1 September 2014

The North Street Football Pitch at Saltney Ferry, Flintshire, has been saved as an open space for ever more.  The space has been protected under the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge, by Fields in Trust. The Open Spaces Society objected to a planning application to develop the site and is delighted that it is now secure. This is the only recreational area in Saltney Ferry, much loved by local people who badly need open spaces for fresh air and enjoyment. We are delighted to have played a part in rescuing this open space and to learn that is now safe for ever. The society worked closely with Fields in Trust’s predecessor, the National Playing Fields Association: the society’s secretary Sir …read more

We fight windfarm in the heart of rural Powys

28 August 2014

We have objected to plans for seven wind-turbines in the quiet countryside five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys.  Hendy Wind Farm Ltd has applied to Powys County Council for planning permission Hendy Wind Farm Ltd has applied to Powys County Council for planning permission for the turbines and ancillary development, including an access road, close to the hamlet of Llandegley on the A44 road. We are concerned about the adverse effect the massive turbines will have on the landscape, public paths and common land in the vicinity. Says our local representative, Peter Newman: ‘We object most strongly to this proposal.  This is an area of high landscape value much appreciated by visitors and residents alike. ‘These enormous structures would …read more

Kent’s coastal access needs your help

Natural England is making good progress with coastal access around England.  A stretch which is nearing fruition is between Folkestone and Ramsgate in Kent.  Kent Ramblers, through its coastal access officer Ian Wild and with support from the OSS, has worked closely with Natural England and we are all pleased with the route which Natural England proposed to the Secretary of State in June. A particularly welcome aspect of Natural England’s route was just north of Sandwich where the proposed route follows the edge of the quay at Richborough Port.  This avoids a very unpleasant stretch of the busy A256 and also allows walkers to see the quay itself which is of great historical interest for its role in the First and …read more

We slate Lancashire County Council for path-closure plans

26 August 2014

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

Lettaford saga

25 August 2014

Last May our member Sally Button contacted us for help in reopening the Mariners’ Way footpath through the hamlet of Lettaford, near North Bovey in the Dartmoor National Park. The path ran through the farmyard of High Lettaford Farm.  About a month before the gate on the southern side of the property had been locked and marked private and the path redirected.  It seemed that this was connected with the sale of the property by the Landmark Trust to an individual. It turned out that the definitive map showed the path on a route which had clearly never been used, running through an ancient hedgebank. The matter was raised with the highway authority, Devon County Council.  With inexplicable haste, it decided to …read more

We fight proposed wind turbine in Herefordshire

19 August 2014

We have objected to an application for a wind turbine, access track, hard-standing, substation and temporary construction-compound in rural Herefordshire. The planning application has been submitted by g2 Energy Renewable Developments Ltd for a 77-metre-high turbine at Halfridge Farm, Pippins Hill, Acton Beauchamp. Our local correspondent, Peter Newman, has written to Herefordshire Council, the planning authority: ‘The proposal would have an adverse effect on the very attractive surrounding countryside, being in a prominent position on high land which is around 180 metres above sea level. ‘The new track would be built partially along public footpath AB4A which would reduce its current rural surface to a more urban dusty track. ‘Public bridleway AB10 runs a short distance west of the site …read more