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Articles Related To commons

The Elinor Ostrom Award for practitioners: video

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

  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

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

Commons registration: a half century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The society is delighted that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has resolved to set up a commons council 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

Private garage refused on Cornwall common

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

South Wales commons saved from industrial development

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

Commercial camping development on national park common is rejected

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

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

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

Withdrawal of Stevenage common enclosure plans

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

Wind turbines rejected on Rooley Moor, Rochdale

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

Henley RBL learns about Open Spaces Society

‘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

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

We object to ugly tower above Shepherd’s Bush Common

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We call on landowner to stop destroying Anglesey common

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

Lake District fencing plan conflicts with special Act of Parliament

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

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

Common landscapes

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

Pressure groups fight fencing plan in Lake District’s wilderness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local correspondents’ summit

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.

Delay to implementation of Part 1, Commons Act 2006

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

Public hearing for Ealing’s Haven Green

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

Unwelcome development on Lake District common

The Lowther Estate wants to develop White Moss Common next to the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere in the Lake District National Park. The estate proposes to create a visitor centre and hierarchy of routes at the existing car-park and has submitted a planning application to the Lake District National Park Authority (ref 7/2014/5399). The society and the Friends of the Lake District are among the objectors. We are dismayed that the Lowther Estate seems not to recognise that this is registered common land and that any works here require, in addition to planning consent, the approval of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The fact that …read more

Delight that Dartmoor eyesores have gone

Five kilometres of ugly poles and power-lines on Walkhampton Common, south-west Dartmoor, have been removed. Because the land is common, Western Power Distribution obtained consent last year under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 for the works. We supported the application. The beautiful open landscape of Walkhampton Common in the Dartmoor National Park has been blighted for decades by the overhead lines which run from Devil’s Elbow to Peek Hill. We have campaigned with the Dartmoor Preservation Association and others for their removal. The Dartmoor National Park Authority identified this line in the 1980s as a priority. We are delighted that the landscape has at least been freed from this eyesore and we can once again enjoy the open, …read more

Private-parking plan rejected on Surrey common

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected plans by the Shere Manor Estate to create parking spaces on Hurtwood Common near Holmbury St Mary in Surrey. This was to be in connection with the housing development proposed for the former Hollybush Tavern. The development had been granted planning permission in January 2013 but, because the works were to be on common land, the estate also needed the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (delegated to the Planning Inspectorate). We objected because the works were of purely private benefit and would conflict with the public’s use and enjoyment of the common. They involved levelling a steep bank and clearing the vegetation and would have suburbanised this attractive …read more

Global commons conference, Canada, 25-29 May 2015

The commons amid complexity and change is the theme of the next global conference organised by the International Association for the Study of the Commons. It is to be held at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, from 25 to 29 May next year. Commons in an international sense are much broader than our ancient commons of England and Wales, meaning the common use of resources—land, water, air and knowledge. The Open Spaces Society has been working with the organisers and others to ensure that the conference is much more than purely an academic event, with significant content concerning practitioners on commons. For the first time, this (the fifteenth) biennial conference will embrace those who live and work on commons …read more

Common-land swap approved for Walton Heath, Surrey

The Planning Inspectorate has approved plans by Walton Heath Golf Club to swap an area of common land known as Beecham’s Field on the golf course for a site some distance away. The land to be taken is 80,000 square metres on the west side of the golf course (near the car-park) which the golf club wishes to develop into a practice ground for golfers. The proposed replacement is 98,000 square metres south of the M25 near Round Wood. Because the land is common, such exchange must be approved by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (delegated to the Planning Inspectorate). As this case was controversial there was a public inquiry last May. The objectors included …read more

Plan dropped for massive wind-turbines in Cumbrian beauty-spot

Banks Renewables has abandoned its plan to build three massive wind-turbines near Killington Reservoir in Cumbria (near junction 37 on the M6 motorway)—the gateway to the Lake District and the Western Fells of the Yorkshire Dales. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, called in the application last March after South Lakeland District Council approved it, against the officer’s recommendation, in February. The Open Spaces Society, FELLS (Friends of Eden, Lakeland and Lunedale Scenery), the Friends of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales Society had all objected and a public inquiry was scheduled for September. Now the Planning Inspectorate has announced that the application has been withdrawn. This is splendid news. The development had far-reaching, …read more

Pub extension could threaten beauty-spot Chilterns common

We have objected to a planning appeal which could threaten the lovely Ibstone Common in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Bucks. The owners of the Fox public house in Ibstone applied to Wycombe District Council for permission to extend the premises, including a basement function-suite with capacity for 150 people. The council refused the application because there is inadequate parking, and the applicants have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. We have objected to the appeal because the number of vehicles which would need to be accommodated far exceeds the capacity of the existing car-park. The result will be that vehicles will park alongside the only road through the village, which is immediately adjacent to registered common land, …read more

Waverley Council to rethink future of Haslemere Common

We are delighted that Waverly Borough Council has decided to defer plans to refurbish Wey Hill Fairground common at Haslemere in Surrey. The land is currently used as a car-park. The council applied for consent for works on the common, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We and many others, including the Haslemere Society, objected. After the public inquiry had been arranged, the council withdrew the application so as to rethink its plans. Now Waverley is waiting for Haslemere Town Council and Haslemere Vision, the neighbourhood forum, to consider the borough council’s proposals as part of the wider neighbourhood plan and to come up with their own suggestions for the site. We have always felt that it was …read more

Outdoor organisations call on MPs and peers to “champion outdoor recreation” for the good of the nation

Ten leading outdoor organisations are joining together in Westminster today (11 June) to urge parliamentarians to factor the benefits of outdoor recreation into their manifestos and policies ahead of the next general election. The event, organised by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering, co-chaired by David Rutley MP and John Mann MP, will highlight the social, health and economic benefits that outdoor recreation contributes to the nation. MPs and peers have been invited to make a date with outdoor representatives at the ‘speed-briefing’ to learn more about outdoor recreation and countryside conservation. Millions of people love being outdoors whether for walking, cycling, running, exploring, climbing or visiting our National Parks and other open …read more

Our manifesto for green spaces

We have published our manifesto for the 2015 Westminster election. We are calling on politicians of all parties to support these policies. Good-quality paths and green spaces are vital to people’s well-being and they support the economy too. So we are urging politicians to adopt policies which protect and promote commons, greens, other open spaces and public paths. In summary, we propose that everyone should have access to good-quality green space close to their home, and we suggest how this can be done. We have called for a reversal of the damaging new law which makes it impossible to register land in England as a village green where that land has been earmarked for development. To ensure our public paths …read more

Remove unlawful fence on Nottinghamshire common

We hope that Nottinghamshire County Council will take enforcement action against an unlawful fence on Hanging Hill Lane Common, Normanton-on-Trent. The common is a long strip, consisting of Hanging Hill Lane and a broad verge on either side. The verge is used by walkers and for access to adjoining fields, and the fence encloses part (68 square metres) of this land and prevents public access there. Any works on common land need the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The occupants of an adjoining property, Skegby Manor Cottages, applied to replace the existing fence with a brick wall topped with a timber …read more

A fair exchange

In February the Planning Inspectorate approved an application from Mr Ewan Bumpstead to swap 418 square metres of common land in front of his property at Booker in Buckinghamshire with 2544 square metres in a nearby wood. We supported the application. When Mr Bumpstead bought the property in 2010 he knew that the land in front of the house was common land but was unaware of its extent. The previous owners had maintained this land as a garden and Mr Bumpstead continued to do so. In 2012 he applied to deregister the common and exchange it for a plot at the rear. We objected to this: the exchange land was smaller and was part of the Booker Common woods which …read more

Circuit of Wales developers withdraw application for works on common

The Heads of the Valley Development Company has withdrawn its application for works on Trefil-Las and Twyn Bryn-March Commons at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent.  We were one of the objectors. Last week the Planning Inspectorate called a public inquiry into the works which were proposed ahead of the prospective Circuit of Wales motor-racing development itself.  The company had applied to the Welsh ministers for consent to carry out major works on the common (haul roads, trenches and drains, stockpiles of excavated material and fencing), under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The company is looking for land to offer in exchange for the 340 hectares of common land which it wants to take for the development.  It will need ministers’ …read more

Circuit of Wales: public inquiry into development on common land

We are delighted that the Planning Inspectorate has called a public inquiry into plans by the Heads of the Valley Development Company Ltd to develop common land at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent. These works are proposed ahead of the prospective Circuit of Wales motor-racing development itself. The company has applied to the Welsh ministers for consent to carry out major works on the common. The public inquiry is scheduled for 24 June and will last for four days. If the Circuit of Wales development is to go ahead, the company will need the ministers’ consent to deregister about 340 hectares of common land and to give suitable land in exchange. The company has not yet submitted this application and so the …read more

Hedge removed from Goose Green common

Surrey member Hugh Craddock reports a success in waking up a district council to its duties under the Commons Act 1899. Many commons in west Surrey were put into schemes of regulation and management under the 1899 act by rural district councils in the first half of the twentieth century; Waverley Borough Council is now responsible. But in 2004, Waverley decided to withdraw from management of the 72 hectares of scheme commons to save money. Recently I noticed that the owner of a cottage on Goose Green, part of Selhurst Common near Bramley, had planted a laurel hedge dividing the green in front of his house from the road. Waverley initially refused to take any action. However, I showed that …read more

Common-land champions welcome Natural England’s new focus on commons

The Foundation for Common Land and the Open Spaces Society have welcomed the news that Natural England has created a new post of Principal Specialist on Commons with effect from 1 April. The new role will ensure that common land is given a higher profile within Natural England and will bring together the multi interests in commons: agriculture, biodiversity, landscape and public enjoyment. The postholder is Pippa Langford, formerly Natural England’s Manager in People and Access. Says Pippa: ‘As the new lead on commons for Natural England I will be working with commons stakeholders to help conserve and enhance commons. Natural England recognises that commons, derived from traditional farming systems, are very special places for wildlife, landscape and millions of …read more

Glastir scheme recognises public benefits of common land

We are pleased that the Welsh Government, in the proposed new Glastir scheme for agri-environment payments in Wales, recognises the value of common land in providing public benefit. The government proposes, in the new phase, to introduce a single scheme for common land. This will reduce bureaucracy and administration costs and enable the scheme to be targeted to the particular needs of common land. Thanks in part to the government’s appointment of Commons Development Officers, who facilitate schemes on commons and liaise with the grazing associations, many more commons are being included in the agri-environment scheme. The government hopes that, by 2015, over 60 per cent of Welsh common land will be sustainably managed within Glastir. We have responded to …read more

War against green space

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, writes of the unprecedented threats to open spaces.  Our green spaces are being squeezed from both ends.  Government made it harder to register greens and now a supreme court ruling encourages greedy developers to unpick existing registrations. Under the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 land cannot be registered as a green if it is subject to one or more planning-related ‘trigger events’—now government has added new ones.  When will the attrition stop? Using another section of this pernicious act, landowners are rapidly depositing statements, challenging people’s use of land ‘as of right’—and giving them only one year in which to apply to register it. The Welsh government looks set to ape Westminster by introducing similar …read more

Unfair exchange at Beverley Westwood Common

We have objected to plans by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to swap land on Beverley Westwood Common for a small piece on the northern edge. This is to accommodate a cycle track across the common. The law (section 16 of the Commons Act 2006) requires any exchange of common land to 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 remote and largely inaccessible. On race days it cannot be reached by the route over the race course and, in any case, it is currently closed for renovation. In wet weather the alternative route is extremely muddy. The replacement land is …read more

Our new activist for Wealden District, East Sussex

We have appointed Mr Brendan Clegg as our local correspondent for Wealden District in East Sussex. Brendan will be the society’s eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in the district and intervening as necessary. Says Brendan: ‘I am very pleased to be appointed as local correspondent for the society. In the Wealden District of East Sussex we have some of the finest access land in the south-east, including the 6,400-acre Ashdown Forest (of Winnie the Pooh fame), and part of the South Downs National Park. We also have an extensive network of public rights of way. ‘I look forward to helping protect the open spaces, the commons, greens and public paths that …read more

Two beauty-spot windfarms scrapped

Community Windpower has scrapped its controversial windfarms in beauty-spots at Davidstow in Cornwall and Claughton Moor in Lancashire.  The society had objected to both because of their adverse effect on fine landscapes and open country, and people’s enjoyment of them.  Both were in designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Community Windpower, in its press release, blames the government for ‘constantly shifting its position on UK renewables’. We are delighted that these two long-standing and controversial proposals have been abandoned. Both were in protected landscapes on prominent open hillsides where people walk freely, enjoying the spectacular views. The turbines at Davidstow were to be in the Bodmin Moor Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, close to common land and open country.  The …read more

We oppose fencing on Bowland common

We have objected to an application from the Yorkshire Burnmoor Graziers to erect fencing on common land, alongside Mewith Lane near Bentham in North Yorkshire. The common is within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The society objects because the fence will enclose the lane which currently crosses open country. The fence will give a closed-in feeling and will be an eyesore. The site offers fine views of at least two of the Three Peaks—Ingleborough and Peny-y-Ghent. The fence will destroy the open feeling of this landscape, cutting off a smaller area to the north of the lane from the rest of the common. People have the right to walk over the whole area, and the proposed …read more

Industrial development on South Wales common

We have slated plans by the Heads of the Valley Development Company Ltd to develop common land at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent, ahead of the prospective Circuit of Wales motor-racing development. The company has applied to the Welsh ministers for consent to carry out major works on the common. If the Circuit of Wales development is to go ahead, the company will need the ministers’ consent to deregister about 340 hectares of common land and to give suitable land in exchange. The company has not yet submitted this application and so the future of the motorsports development remains uncertain. But regardless of this, the company is now seeking consent for buildings, haul roads, car-parking, trenches and drains, stockpiles of excavated material …read more

We urge Welsh environmental body to champion common land

We have urged Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to champion common land and to oppose government plans to weaken the law protecting village greens.  The society has responded to NRW’s consultation, Planning our Future. We are concerned that nowhere in the document is there a mention of common land and its crucial role in securing a good environment.  Commons are of exceptional public importance; they have remained undisturbed through history, have a rich biodiversity and provide unspoiled, inspirational landscapes. We are also concerned that there is no mention of the importance of Wales’s fine landscapes and the role of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to the diverse scenery of Wales, and their contribution to the rural economy. We …read more

What happened to balance?

When the Commons Bill was published in 2005 we were concerned, among other things, about part 1, which allows for correction and updating of the common-land registers. We feared that in the process we might lose more than we gained. However, ministers continually assured us, and parliament, that the bill was balanced and affected landowners and the public equally: ‘We believe that the bill presents a balance in carefully defining limited criteria, both for the deregistration of registered land and for the registration of new land’ (Lord Bach, parliamentary under-secretary of state for the environment at the second reading in the House of Lords on 20 July 2005). Now all that has gone out of the window.  On 9 January …read more

Government’s plans for common land biased against public

We have criticised as biased Defra’s announcement today (9 January) that it will bring into effect only part of the law for updating the common-land registers, to favour landowners against the public interest. The environment ministers Lord de Mauley and Dan Rogerson have said that the government will implement part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 fully in Cumbria and North Yorkshire. In the rest of England it will be implemented only partially and unfairly, enabling landowners to remove commons from the registers without the balancing provision enabling the public to add land which was wrongly excluded. Over seven years after royal assent, the law has so far only been fully implemented in seven pioneer authorities. Full implementation of the …read more

Unbounded freedom

Andrew Humphries, experienced hill-farmer and teacher, writes about the contribution of the Lake District yeomen.   Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene Nor fence of ownership crept in between To hide the prospect of the following eye Its only bondage was the circling sky. (John Clare 1792-1864) Writing when enclosure and ‘high farming’ were in full flow, Clare expressed the essence of pastoral commons as special places. Despite this, the largest area of unenclosed commons in western Europe exists today in the Lake District; why did this happen?  After the late eighteenth century, self-sufficiency in temperate foods gave way to increased imports; this stimulated large landowners to pursue a highly capitalised approach to agriculture and new techniques of husbandry. In …read more

Bovine TB control and commons

Because of the potential effect on common land, we have responded to a consultation from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on proposals for new controls to reduce the risk of bovine TB transmission between cattle herds. We have objected to the proposed amendment to remove the common land pre-movement testing exemption from the TB regulations. The effect would be that cattle could not be moved readily on and off the common, which would have a detrimental effect on conservation grazing and commons management. We believe that there is little evidence that there is a higher risk of contracting TB on commons than elsewhere and we consider that those farming on common land should not be faced with …read more

New plan for golf-course on national-park common

We have objected to a new planning application, from Old Thorns Golf and Country Club, to create a golf-course on a heathland common near Liphook in the South Downs National Park. The golf course will be highly damaging to the superb landscape of the area and people’s enjoyment of it. The development will also interfere with the rights of the public to walk over the whole common. The applicants seem to dismiss these rights as unimportant. Heathland commons are especially important for their wildlife habitats which are rapidly diminishing. The golf course will interfere with the rights of graziers whose stock do good work in maintaining the heathland habitat. The applicants are surely aware that, even if they obtain planning …read more

Environment Committee tells government it must update the common-land registers

We are delighted that the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee has told the government that it must update the common-land registers or implement legislation to ensure that there are accurate registers of common land for making payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The committee’s report, Implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy in England 2014-2020, was published today (3 December). The committee has endorsed the society’s submission that the registers are out of date and inaccurate. The society called on the committee to recommend that government urgently implement part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 to enable the registers to be updated. After quoting the Open Spaces Society’s evidence, the Efra Committee has concluded: The government must …read more

We back Friends of Putney Common’s court action

We have pledged financial support for the Friends of Putney Common’s appeal-court action to save the common from road-building. The Friends, a member of OSS, are appealing against the high court’s refusal to stop the Wimbledon and Putney Common Conservators, owner of the common, from allowing Wandsworth Council to build private roads on Putney Lower Common to give access to new development on the former Putney Hospital site. The conservators are to receive £350,000 from the council in access fees. The proposal also involves conversion of grass footpaths to gravel or tarmac with overhead lighting. We are pleased to support the Friends in their excellent campaign. If the plans go ahead part of the common will be destroyed and the …read more

Brendon Commons to have the first commons council

The Brendon Commons, in the Devon part of the Exmoor National Park, are to have the first-ever commons council under the Commons Act 2006. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decreed that the Brendon Commons Council will come into being on 1 April 2014. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ran a consultation during October to gauge the level of support for such a council. The result was that 89 per cent of the 53 respondents supported the proposal for a council. The council is to be established by a parliamentary order and the Secretary of State can only make such an order if there is substantial support for it. He …read more

We fight devastation of Swansea commons

We have sent a strong objection to plans to build 16 wind turbines with associated infrastructure on Mynydd y Gwair and adjoining commons, eight miles north of Swansea. RWE npower renewables has planning permission for the development but, because it is to be sited on registered common land, the developer needs the additional consent of Welsh ministers for works on, and exchanges of, common land. We have objected to the company’s proposal to swap land in the heart of the common with inferior land on the edge, so that the land on which the turbines and associated access track, electricity transformers, crane hardstandings, construction compound and other structures would be sited is taken out of the common. In addition, the …read more

Chilterns Commons Project competition to celebrate beauty of our commons

The stunning landscape of the Chilterns has inspired artists over the years and, to celebrate the natural beauty of our commons, the Chilterns Commons Project is running a free art competition. Artwork in any medium is welcomed from amateur artists young and old inspired by a common in the Chilterns. Prizes will be awarded to category winners and selected entries short-listed by local judges will be publicly exhibited at Arts4every1 in High Wycombe from 13 October – 14 November 2014. We are delighted that our vice-chairman Graham Bathe, who is also on the steering group for the Foundation for Common Land, will be acting as one of the judges. Visit the Chilterns AONB website for full details of the competition …read more

Ancient Warwickshire landscape saved

We are delighted that Galley Common, Nuneaton in Warwickshire has been saved from housing development. We were among the objectors to a planning application from A R Cartwright Ltd for 130 houses with associated infrastructure on land north of Tunnel Road. Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council refused the application in December 2012, the applicant appealed and a public inquiry was held in September. On 22 November the inspector, Paul Griffiths, rejected the application because it would destroy the historic landscape of ridge-and-furrow fields and hedgerows, which were probably medieval in origin. We were particularly concerned that the houses would destroy the route of the promoted Centenary Way long-distance footpath. This 98-mile route was invented by Warwickshire County Council to celebrate …read more

Common land reclaimed at St Just, Cornwall

More than 100 hectares of common land at Carn Kenidjack, north of St Just in Penwith, Cornwall, have been reclaimed as registered common land, using legislation which is being pioneered in Cornwall (part 1 of the Commons Act 2006). Following a public inquiry in September, planning inspector Martin Elliott ruled that the land should be recorded on the commons register. The application site includes Carnyorth, Botallack and Truthwall Commons and is open heather moorland. It is in the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site and is currently being surveyed by Natural England as a site of special scientific interest. The area is also extremely rich in archaeology with stone circles, holed stones and Bronze …read more

Sir Robert Hunter, 1844-1913

6 November 2013 is the centenary of the death of Robert Hunter, the society’s solicitor from 1868 to 1882. Robert Hunter was an early luminary of the Commons Preservation Society (CPS), as the Open Spaces Society was first known. He later became solicitor to the General Post Office and founded the National Trust. He was knighted in 1894. Born in Camberwell, south London, in 1844, Hunter excelled at school and enjoyed a happy upbringing. He graduated from University College London in 1865 with firsts in logic and moral philosophy. It is fortunate for the open-spaces movement that, after considering a career in the church, he opted to become a lawyer. Competition In 1866 he spotted a competition which appealed to …read more

We object to Defra’s plans to justify development

We have objected to plans by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for ‘biodiversity offsetting’, by which alternative sites and habitats are provided to replace those lost through development. The society responded to Defra’s consultation Biodiversity offsetting in England, green paper. We believe that offsetting will lead to a net loss of open space from people’s localities and that the green space will be shifted somewhere else, further away and less convenient. It’s impossible immediately to create a new natural habitat. Heaths, moors and woods can take decades to grow and become ecologically rich. It is facile to suggest that such sites can be replaced. In any case, open space is particularly valuable when it’s close to …read more

Brendon Commons, Exmoor, set to become first commons council under new law

We have backed a proposal to create a commons council for the Brendon Commons in the Exmoor National Park. This would be the first-ever commons council under the Commons Act 2006. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting on whether to establish the commons council and will only do so if there is substantial support for it. The council would provide a democratic management structure, authorising those with rights of common to take majority decisions on agricultural matters. This will enable the common to benefit from environmental stewardship payments. The model for commons councils is based on the pioneering Dartmoor Commoners’ Council, established under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985. We have strongly supported the establishment …read more

Lincoln stalwart retires

Mick Commons has recently resigned from the Lincoln City Commons Advisory Panel on which he served as the society’s representative for nearly 30 years. Mick, a professional footballer, became interested in the commons when he kept horses there. The committee was established thanks to the society’s opposition to the city council’s Lincoln City Council Bill in 1984. The bill gave the city management powers over its three commons (West Common, South Common and Cow Paddle). We lobbied successfully for a committee to advise on the commons’ management, on which the society would be represented — without this the commons might have been lost to development. We also won a formal undertaking from the council that it would review annually the …read more

New law could ban public from open spaces and paths

We have called on Peers to challenge provisions in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which empower local authorities to restrict people’s use of public spaces in England. The Bill has its second reading in the House of Lords on 29 October. The Bill enables a local authority to make a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) if it is satisfied that activities carried on in a public place have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of local people and that those activities are unreasonable. The order may include an open space or public highway. There is nothing in the Bill to stop a local authority from banning the public completely from land which has a PSPO. The …read more

No authority for alien hedge on Hertfordshire common

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has refused consent to Mr James Wright for a conifer hedge on registered common land at the former Old Chequers pub near Flamstead in Hertfordshire. The society and Flamstead Parish Council were among the nine objectors to the application for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The 97-metre long hedge has already been planted and therefore the application was retrospective. It was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in October 2011 but Mr Wright appealed to the court and the decision was quashed. The application was reconsidered by the Planning Inspectorate and the decision was made by Alison Lea on behalf of the environment secretary. …read more

Further fencing allowed on Allendale Common, Northumberland

We are sorry that the Planning Inspectorate has approved two miles of fencing alongside the east side of the Allendale/Carrshield road in Northumberland, in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Such works need the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The application was made by the Allendale Stinted Pasture Graziers’ Association, in connection with a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme (HLS) for grazing the common in the interests of biodiversity. The society objected because the proposed fence would be an eyesore in the landscape, and fencing on both sides of the road would create a tunnel effect. The public has the right to walk and …read more

We object to ice-cream van on Bristol Downs

We have objected to an application from Bristol City Council to site an ice-cream van on common land at Clifton Down, Bristol. The council has applied for consent for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, to construct an asphalt surface, on the corner of Observatory Road and Suspension Bridge Road, near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, to accommodate an ice-cream van. We have pointed out that the whole common is governed by the Clifton and Durdham Downs (Bristol) Act 1861 which requires the downs to be maintained as open space for public recreation. An ice-cream van is a commercial venture, and should not be sited on common land. It is an unwelcome intrusion in this …read more

Competing demands on Chiltern commons

We are participating in the Chilterns Commons Day at Chorleywood Common, Hertfordshire, organised by the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Commons Project on 3 October.  The day will focus on the dilemmas of managing sports and recreation on registered common land, and practical solutions. Chorleywood Common has a cricket-pitch, a nine-hole golf-course and a school play-area.  The public has the right to walk and ride on the common.  It is also a local nature reserve. Nicola Hodgson, our case officer, will speak about the laws which protect common land, and the need to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment for works on commons, in addition to any planning permission. Says Nicola: ‘I am pleased to …read more

Welsh ministers refuse private works on Aberdovey Common

We are delighted that the Welsh ministers have refused consent to Mr J T Dudley to build a garage and boat store with ancillary development on Aberdovey Common in the Snowdonia National Park. Although the national park authority approved the development in January, Mr Dudley needed the consent of the Welsh ministers for works on the common, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We objected because commons exist for public enjoyment and the works were for purely private purposes. The public has the right to walk and ride over the whole common. Mr Alan Beckett, on behalf of the Welsh ministers, agreed with this view. He noted that ‘the purpose of the Commons Act 2006 is to safeguard …read more

We object to council plans for Haven Green Common, Ealing

We have backed our member The Friends of Haven Green in opposing plans from Ealing Council to widen footways across Haven Green Common. Because the works are on common land, the council needs the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The society and the Friends have objected because we believe the widened footways will suburbanise the common. We are also concerned that the council wants to swap the land currently occupied by the bus layby on the north-east side of the common for the land to be used for widening the footway, but the bus layby is already common land so this is not a fair …read more

Good outcome for Lobden Common, Lancashire

We are relieved that the Planning Inspectorate has imposed conditions on the Lobden Golf Club’s proposed upgraded road across Lobden Common, Whitworth in Lancashire, to mitigate its adverse effect on the common. Lobden Golf Club wanted to upgrade and tarmac the road in front of the golf club. Because this is on common land, the club was required to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We objected, along with our member Mr Philip Ham, because the route is an ancient track — part of the Pennine Bridleway long-distance path — which has been traffic-free for ever, and the proposed works would destroy the natural …read more

Development approved on Llanberis common

We are dismayed that Gwynedd Council’s planning committee has yesterday (2 September) approved a pump-storage power-station on common land at Glyn Rhonwy quarry above Llanberis, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. In objecting, we called on Gwynedd Council to ensure the developer, The Quarry Battery Co Ltd from London, was aware that works cannot be constructed on common land without the consent of the environment minister, in addition to any planning permission. We pointed out that the applicant needs to offer common land in exchange for the land to be taken, and that the exchange land must be at least as beneficial to the neighbourhood and the public (section 16 of the Commons Act 2006) and have the …read more

South Bristol link road’s damage to commons and paths

We have objected to the proposed South Bristol Link Road, because of the damage it will cause to Highridge Common, south-west of Bristol, and to the public-path network.  Our local correspondent for Bristol, Chris Bloor, has submitted a robust objection to Bristol and North Somerset Councils who are promoting the scheme. Says Chris: ‘We are concerned with the threat to Highridge Common, where the increase in traffic is likely to stop parents allowing their children to play on the common, something they have enjoyed for ever.  The Link Road is bound to drive more children indoors, thus contributing to the obesity crisis.  The proposed new common to replace the common taken up by the proposed Link Road cannot compensate for …read more

Picket Mead Common to be dug up

We are disappointed that the Welsh ministers have agreed that Carrington Moore Estates can dig up Picket Mead Common at Newton, Swansea, in connection with planning permission for adjoining development. Carrington Moore Estates, in which the former Welsh rugby captain Andy Moore has an interest, want to bury underground services (electricity, gas, water, telecoms and drainage) and lay grasscrete on the common, in connection with their planning consent for four dwellings and associated works, and the partial demolition of Picket Mead House, adjacent to the common. Permission for the development was granted on appeal last September. Before the development can go ahead, the developers need the consent of the Welsh ministers for works on the common, under section 38 of …read more

We calls for protection for paths, commons and greens when land is sold

We have called for public paths, common land and town and village greens to be protected when land is sold. We want questions about the existence of these features on a property to be compulsory, so that a prospective purchaser knows about them before he or she buys the land. At present these questions are only optional and it is possible to buy a property without knowing that the public has rights on it. The society has responded to a consultation by the Law Society which is updating the forms for prospective purchasers. However the consultation was limited and the society has called for more fundamental changes than the Law Society is proposing. We have argued that questions about the …read more

Environment body’s u-turn on Circuit of Wales development

Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Welsh Government’s environmental advisory body, has done a u-turn on the ‘Circuit of Wales’ motor-racing centre at Ebbw Vale. NRW is no longer asking the government to call in the application which was granted outline consent by Blaenau Gwent Council last month. The development is on common land and abuts the Brecon Beacons National Park. We cannot understand what has caused NRW to cave in to the developers. As far as we can see, nothing has changed. Why could it not reach this agreement before the planning application was submitted? This is NRW’s first big test and we fear that it has failed. NRW should be defending this common land, not letting it be smothered …read more

Ugly cables across Dartmoor to go underground

Western Power Distribution has won consent to put four kilometres of ugly electricity cables underground. The cables stretch across Walkhampton Common, in the Dartmoor National Park, and have been an eyesore for decades. Because the land is common land, WPD needed the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to do the work. We supported the application because undergrounding the cables will restore the natural beauty of the area, and enable people to enjoy it, on foot and horseback, without this manmade intrusion. We commend Western Power for this initiative, and look forward to seeing this breathtaking landscape free at last of ugly poles and cables.

Ministers are considering call-in for ‘Circuit of Wales’ development

The Welsh Government has issued a direction to prevent Blaenau Gwent Council from giving planning permission to the ‘Circuit of Wales’ motor-racing centre, while ministers decide whether to call the matter in. The council granted outline consent to the Heads of the Valleys Development Company last month. We were among the objectors who wrote to the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, urging him to call the application in because it is of national significance and contravenes national planning policies, as set out in Planning Policy Wales, regarding national parks, sustainability and common land. Natural Resources Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, the Gwent and Brecknock Wildlife Trust and many others have also objected. It is right that the Welsh …read more

Good outcome for Kingsmoor Common, Kilgetty

We are delighted that the Welsh Government has rejected an application from Pembrokeshire County Council to extinguish the common rights on 3.78 acres of Kingsmoor Common, Kilgetty.(1) The common is owned by the council. The council applied, under the Dyfed Act 1987, to remove the common rights from 1.89 acres to build a new retail store, and 1.89 acres for extending a gypsy and traveller site. We objected because the proposals were contrary to the public interest as they would prevent local people from being able to enjoy the land for informal recreation. We argued that land should be provided in exchange so that the stock of common land was not diminished. The Minister for Housing and Regeneration rejected the …read more

We call on Bristol councillors to end zoo parking on the Downs

We have called on Bristol’s councillors to refuse the zoo’s latest planning application to park on the Downs. This is to be considered by a planning committee on Wednesday, 24 July. ‘There is no justification for this. The zoo points out that it is a charity, but this does not mean it can ignore planning requirements. Our planning system is not there to judge the merits of applicants but the merits of proposed uses of land, in the public interest. ‘The zoo says that the loss of parking on the Downs would mean that it would have to reduce its spending on the development of its facilities and conservation projects abroad—but it has provided no evidence of this, nor of …read more

Common-land issues make future of ‘Circuit of Wales’ uncertain

The Circuit of Wales plan still has a long way to go before it can proceed, because of the need to sort out common-land issues. The application, from the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, for a motor-racing centre was approved by Blaenau Gwent council yesterday (10 July). As a number of objectors pointed out, most of the 344-hectare site is registered common land. Thus the proposal cannot go ahead until suitable exchange-land has been provided and approved by the Welsh Government. The site is on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, close to Ebbw Vale. The Open Spaces Society, Natural Resources Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, the Gwent and Brecknock Wildlife Trusts and other objectors …read more

Call for better protection of our unique common land

We are calling for better protection for the unique common land of England and Wales.  Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, spoke at a conference held at Newcastle University, Sustaining the Commons, on 5 July. Said Kate: ‘While the term”‘common” is understood internationally to mean “shared resource”—whether land, sea, the air or even information—here in England and Wales we have the first, historic, commons.  These are the survivors of the Inclosure Movement, they are defined in law and are unique. ‘Here, a common is land which has an owner but on which others have rights of grazing, or collecting wood, and the public has the right to walk on all of them and to ride on many. ‘Our commons have some …read more

International accolade for OSS

We have won a prestigious international award for our work on common land. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, will receive the first-ever Elinor Ostrom Award at a global conference in Japan next month. The award was established by 15 institutions in memory of the renowned academic expert on commons, Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University, who died last year. It promotes the work of practitioners and scholars who are involved in the field of commons, and celebrates Ostrom’s writing on the value of common resources and international collective action. The Open Spaces Society is one of eight award-winners for its ‘long stewardship of the commons and its impact on commons policy and management both in the UK and Japan.’ The society …read more

Charlton Common inquiry adjourned

The public inquiry into a new access-road across Charlton Common in South Gloucestershire opened yesterday (9 April) and was immediately adjourned. The room at the BAWA Club, Filton, was overflowing with objectors from Southmead, Brentry and Henbury, who had not been consulted about the plans and who were angry at what was proposed. The inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, has adjourned the inquiry until November. The application from Redrow Homes is for a 6.4-metre-wide road with a three-metre-wide pedestrian/cycle lane in connection with adjoining development. Because the road is across common land, Redrow Homes need consent from the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, as well as planning permission. The society is one of the objectors. Our …read more

We need a champion for the environment and public access

 We have called for there to be a strong agency to champion the environment, landscape and public access to and enjoyment of the outdoors in England.  The society was responding to the triennial review of the Environment Agency and Natural England being carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The society has argued that the review should result in agencies better able to champion their areas of expertise and interest and to develop policy as well as deliver it.  The society considers that government, local authorities and other public and private bodies benefit from a knowledgeable, independent body which is able to question and challenge their work.  With staff on the ground and a good …read more

We slate revived plans for wind turbine in secret Suffolk countryside

We have objected strongly to revived plans from Stamford Renewables Ltd for a wind turbine with access roads and associated works in Suffolk’s beautiful Waveney valley. The society has written to Waveney District Council urging it to refuse the application. The development, at Laurels Farm, Barsham, near Beccles, will destroy part of High Common on either side of the ancient, winding route known as Clarke’s Lane which runs from the B1062 at Barsham south towards Ilketshall St Andrew. The turbine will be highly visible from the many paths in the area as well as from the Broads. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The Waveney valley is quiet, intimate countryside, it is secret Suffolk, unsung but immensely beautiful. The turbine …read more

Two new volunteers for the society

We have appointed two new local correspondents: Brian Cowling for Bedford Borough, and Chris Smith for Lewes District in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove City. Brian worked as a rights-of-way officer for Bedfordshire County Council and then Bedford Borough Council when it became a unitary authority.  He enjoys walking, backpacking in the UK, reading, gardening and other hobbies.  As a volunteer he recently surveyed the local public rights of way for the council.  He looks forward to pressing the council to focus on its rights-of-way duties instead of threatening to cut its small path-team still further.   Chris has been an activist for the last 40 years and since 1987 he was involved in the campaign to win the …read more

Development proposed on Llanberis common

We have joined the protestors again a proposed pump-storage power-station at Glynrhonwy quarries above Llanberis, Gwynedd, because the works will encroach on common land and be an eyesore in a popular area on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. We have put in an objection to Gwynedd County Council and called on the council to ensure the developer, The Quarry Battery Co Ltd, is aware that works cannot be constructed on common land without the consent of the environment minister, in addition to any planning permission. We consider that the development will have an adverse effect on this sensitive landscape, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, and on people’s enjoyment of it.  It is used extensively by …read more

Our dismay at approval of cycleway on Cumbrian coastal common

We are dismayed that the Planning Inspectorate has approved a plan by Cumbria County Council to construct a cycleway on registered common land at Scadbeck and Crosscanonby foreshore on the Cumbrian Coast. Although the council had planning permission it was required in addition to obtain consent for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The route will form part of Hadrian’s cycleway, a coast-to-coast route from Silloth in the west to Wallsend in the east. We are disappointed that the application for works on common land has been granted.  We are in favour of the cycleway, which will take cyclists off the B5300 road with its speeding  motorists, but do not consider it should be …read more

Dismay at threat to mid-Wales beauty spot

We are dismayed that parts of the beautiful Eppynt Commons in Powys are advertised for sale ‘with some potential for wind-farm development’. The commons form part of an extensive ridge of high ground to the north of the Brecon Beacons National Park, south of Builth Wells.  More than 2,500 acres, comprising four commons with over 200 graziers, are up for sale with Chester Master. These commons are a vital element in the Welsh landscape, open and windswept, wild and free.  People can walk there and the graziers depend on them for their livelihood. It is worrying that the land should be advertised for wind development.   This might encourage prospective purchasers to think they can make money out of these commons.  …read more

Call to save England’s commons

The newly-formed Common Land Coalition of 16 diverse countryside bodies* has called on environment minister Richard Benyon urgently to implement the law to update England’s registers of common land.  They have written to the minister, and a letter is published in The Times today (Saturday 27 October). Common land is suffering because there is no definitive, up-to-date record of the land and rights.  The Commons Act was passed with cross-party and cross-sectoral support in 2006 specifically to address this and other issues.  Yet part 1 of the Act, which provides for updating the registers, has only been implemented in seven ‘pioneer’ areas (Blackburn with Darwen, Cornwall, Devon, Hereford, Hertfordshire, Kent and Lancashire), in October 2008.  Ministers have recently announced the deferral …read more

Manège would suburbanise South Downs countryside

We have objected to a planning application for a manège at Sparkes Farm next to Ebernoe Common, three miles north of Petworth in West Sussex. The development comes hot on the heels of other planning applications at this site, for a stable complex and barn. The application is in the South Downs National Park and we argue that the development is inappropriate in the national park, in this intimate and very special countryside, close to common land. The development is adjacent to Ebernoe Common. This is extremely important, undisturbed and ancient land where the public has the right to walk. It is owned by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and is of immense nature-conservation value because of the peaceful habitats it …read more

Lambeth Council rejects Sky One TV’s domes on Clapham Common

Lambeth’s planning committee last night (11 September) rejected the application for a domed development on Clapham Common for Sky One TV’s ‘Got to Dance’.  The domes were erected before the planning application was even considered by Lambeth Council.  The councillors’ rejection was contrary to the officers’ recommendation of approval. The domes, with fencing, portacabins and other paraphernalia, need planning permission because they are to remain on site for 36 days and they are only allowed for 28 days as permitted development.   The Friends of Clapham Common and the Clapham Society (both of whom addressed the meeting) and the Open Spaces Society were among the objectors. We are delighted that the councillors rejected the advice of the officers.  Now these hideous, surreal …read more

Go-ahead for development beside Swansea common

We are disappointed that Carrington Moore Estates, in which the former Welsh rugby captain Andy Moore has an interest, has obtained planning consent for development adjoining Picket Mead Common at Newton, Swansea. The battle has raged over many years, but finally Carrington won its appeal to Welsh Ministers against Swansea Council’s refusal of planning consent. The consent is for four dwellings and associated works and the partial demolition of Picket Mead House. Picket Mead Common is a gem, a small open space which is treasured by the community.  The public has the right to walk and ride here.  The development will tower over the common and spoil people’s quiet enjoyment of it. We believe the housing will require the construction of a …read more

New edition of A Common Purpose out now

We are delighted that A Common Purpose, a guide to seeking agreement on England’s common land, has been published in a revised edition on the Foundation for Common Land’s website. This follows endorsement by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ National Common Land Stakeholder Group which consists of all the principal organisations with an interest in commons. A Common Purpose provides guidance to common-land managers on how to engage the community and achieve consensus when works, such as fencing or tree-felling, are contemplated. It encourages land managers to take a step-by-step approach to understanding people’s views and to allow plenty of time for discussion and reflection. There are 1,544 square miles (400,000 hectares) of common land in England, …read more

Objectionable developments on Clapham Common

We have objected to plans to use part of Clapham Common, Lambeth, for filming Sky One’s ‘Got to Dance’.  The society was founded in 1865 initially to protect the London commons from development, and we consider that this current proposal needs special common-land consent as well as planning permission.  We are particularly angry that the development has gone ahead before either consent has been obtained.   The Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967 sets out the requirement to obtain consent from the Secretary of State for Environment for buildings, structures and permanent enclosures on the common. The planning application is for three dome structures on the common, with fencing, portacabins and other paraphernalia. …read more

No land swap at Mynydd Lliw Common

An application for the exchange of common land has been rejected by the Welsh Government. DKT Planning Associates applied on behalf of Mrs Elizabeth Jones and Mr Ieuan Mainwaring to swap 1,200 square metres on the north-east side of Mynydd Lliw Common, Grovesend, Swansea, which is close to residential properties for a similar-sized area some distance away to the west. We objected because the land to be taken out of the common is relatively close to residential properties and therefore can be enjoyed by those living there. The replacement land was some distance away, and appeared to offer no benefit to the public. The applicants argued that the existing common was enclosed and not used for grazing. They also said …read more

Win at Westfield Common, Woking

A public-inquiry inspector has thrown out plans by Woking Borough Council for a land swap at Westfield Common, Woking in Surrey.  The council wanted to build an access road across the common to the potential housing development nearby.  The proposal was rejected by inspector Mrs Helen Slade following a public inquiry last June.  This is the council’s second attempt at a land swap. Woking Council wanted to take 387 square metres out of the common and to give in exchange 1,174 square metres in three separate parcels.  The plans were opposed by the Westfield Common Residents’ Association (WCRA), the Open Spaces Society and a number of individuals. The inspector rejected the application because she agreed with the objectors that the two of the …read more

Fencing plan rejected on Telscombe Tye Common

A public-inquiry inspector has rejected Telscombe Town Council’s application for fencing of parts of Telscombe Tye Common, north of Peacehaven in East Sussex. The inquiry was held in June this year into the council’s application, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, for works on common land.  The objectors included the British Horse Society.  We made a written representation. The council wished to erect about 1.6 miles of fencing around part of the common in order to graze it, to improve the biodiversity of the chalk downland site. We considered that the fence would be an eyesore in the beautiful landscape of the South Downs National Park and would obstruct public access to the area: people have the right to …read more

Octavia – open spaces champion

Octavia Hill was an activist and committee member of the Open Spaces Society 20 years before she helped to found the National Trust. She campaigned for open spaces and public paths for the benefit of the public. We celebrated the centenary of her death on 13 April, and Radio 4 had a programme about her life.

Give more recognition to Wales’s unique common land

The society is concerned that the Welsh Government’s Green Paper, Sustaining a Living Wales, pays insufficient regard to the nation’s superb common land and landscape, and people’s ability to enjoy it. The society has submitted a robust response to the consultation paper, calling for greater recognition of these important features. Says David Bateman, our spokesman in Wales: ‘Eight per cent of Wales is common land, and commons are immensely important for their natural beauty, wildlife habitats, archaeology and opportunities for informal recreation. No other type of land offers such a range of public benefits. They are also crucial to the Welsh economy and sustainability because they provide grazing land (especially for hill farmers), and are significant tourist attractions. ‘We are …read more

Red-tape review could threaten common land

We are concerned that plans to simplify the law of common land could put commons at risk of hostile development.  The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published its plans to cut red tape for environmental regulations.  These include extending the range of works on common land to be exempted from the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. At present it is necessary to obtain the environment secretary’s consent, in addition to any planning and other consents, for works on common land such as fences, buildings, surfaced tracks and car-parks, to name a few.  The current exemptions apply in a few, limited cases relating to nature conservation or protecting the land from …read more

We commemorate our path pioneer, Octavia Hill

The year 2012 marks the centenary of the death of Octavia Hill, an early activist of the Open Spaces Society.  Octavia became involved in the society in about 1875 shortly after her unsuccessful campaign to buy the fields between Swiss Cottage and Hampstead in west London.  She joined the committee of the society, urging it to enlarge its scope to include ‘the acquisition and dedication to the public of open spaces in or near London’. The society was then known as the Commons Preservation Society, and its luminaries included George Shaw-Lefevre (later to become Lord Eversley), Sir Charles Dilke MP, Leslie Stephen and many other Liberal reformers. Octavia Hill is well known for her advocacy for open spaces—‘open-air sitting rooms’ …read more