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News

Amended guidance on obstructed rights of way in Wales

3 August 2016

Our trustee and local correspondent, Peter Newman, has reported on his work to open up illegally obstructed rights of way in Powys: “There are many areas in Powys where the rights of way network in largely inaccessible because of large scale obstruction by illegal wire and barbed wire fences. Powys County Council is largely ineffective at opening up the bridleway and footpath network as it will only work in one parish in an area at a time, ignoring all the other communities. As a last resort, and in order to try and open up some routes for walkers and riders, I have been serving Section 130A notices on the council which is having some effect. The Welsh Assembly Government provided …read more

Threat to Anglesey common goes to appeal hearing

8 July 2016

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

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

31 March 2016

We have unveiled our 12-point action plan for the new National Assembly for Wales. We call on election candidates to lobby for a better deal for green spaces and public paths. Our Action Plan for Wales chimes with the seven principles in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Open spaces and paths are crucial to the economy, health and well-being of Wales, its history, culture and present-day living. If these places are in good heart, people will visit them for recreation and enjoyment and the local economy will benefit. We asks all candidates for the election on 5 May to commit themselves to the following action points. 1 Resources to sustain common land, town and village greens, open …read more

Public inquiry to determine fate of treasured Mynydd y Gwair common

12 February 2016

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

Bridgend open spaces in peril

9 February 2016

We have objected strongly to a string of planning applications from the housing association Valleys to Coast. These proposals threaten to destroy many open spaces around Bridgend, for example at Cefn Glas, Cefn Cribwr and North Connelly. For instance, within the estate at Cefn Glas, Valleys to Coast intends to eliminate the existing, well-established open space. This is contrary to the Health and Well-being commitments in Bridgend’s Corporate Plan. Says Dr Jay Kynch, a representative of the Open Spaces Society in South Wales: ‘I am saddened to see a housing association seek to destroy the well-designed open spaces which have been used by local residents for 70 years. These spaces should be protected in Local Development Plans, ideally as town …read more

We fight devastation of south Wales common

29 January 2016

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

Our fight against beauty-spot wind turbines in Powys

22 December 2015

We have sent a further objection to plans for seven 110-meter-high wind-turbines in the quiet countryside five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys.  Hendy Wind Farm Ltd has put in minor amendments to its application to Powys County Council for planning permission. The amendments do not mitigate any of our concerns.  The turbines will still desecrate an area of natural beauty and high landscape value, which is enjoyed by residents and visitors. These vast turbines would dominate this very special and splendid landscape and would destroy the view of and from the magnificent Llandegley Rocks.  There are several public paths crossing the area and users of these routes would be severely affected by the sight and noise of the turbines.  …read more

Circuit of Wales racetrack to drive through common land

16 November 2015

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

Croeso i Gymru?

5 November 2015

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

We back new vision for Cambrian Mountains

4 November 2015

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

We fight renewed attempt to destroy Swansea commons

13 October 2015

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

The Welsh consultation on access and recreation

10 October 2015

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

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

27 July 2015

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

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

24 July 2015

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

South Wales commons saved from industrial development

8 July 2015

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

Major victory for green spaces of Wales

21 May 2015

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

Welsh village greens rescued from damaging law-change

20 May 2015

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

We object to path change in Wenvoe, South Wales

19 May 2015

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

We call on landowner to stop destroying Anglesey common

13 March 2015

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

Cock-up of Wales

2 March 2015

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

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

2 February 2015

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

Welsh Assembly debates Circuit of Wales

19 January 2015

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

Campaigners condemn common-land swap for motorsport development

11 November 2014

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

We defend village greens in Welsh Government inquiry

7 November 2014

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

Hendy wind-turbines conflict with law to protect public rights

5 November 2014

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

We fight devastation of Radnorshire’s jewel

3 November 2014

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

Wales apes England and proposes law which will destroy village greens

6 October 2014

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

Wales apes England in changing law to destroy village greens

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

Saving an important route in Cwmcarn Forest, Caerphilly

22 September 2014

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

Saltney Ferry open space saved

1 September 2014

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

We fight windfarm in the heart of rural Powys

28 August 2014

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

We slate Caerphilly Council

7 August 2014

We have criticised Caerphilly County Borough Council for claiming that its legal duties to maintain public paths are merely discretionary. The council’s online survey on its budget, ‘help us to shape your services’, asks for the public’s views on what it calls ‘discretionary services’ It includes in these ‘Country parks, including public rights of way and environmental maintenance’. We have written to the acting chief executive, Stuart Rosser, to point out that the maintenance of public rights of way, ie footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic, is not discretionary but a legal duty. We believe that the council is misleading the public by claiming that rights-of-way maintenance is discretionary. The council has a legal duty to …read more

All-party support for village greens in Wales

3 May 2014

There was all-party support in the National Assembly for Wales for maintaining the current laws for registering greens.  The debate was initiated on 30 April by Suzy Davies, Conservative Assembly Member (AM) for South Wales West and Shadow Minister for Welsh Culture, Language and Tourism.  Suzy asked the Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, if he would consider introducing a presumption in favour of village greens where local authorities threaten to appropriate land for development. Julie Morgan (Cardiff North, Lab) added that in England the right of local inhabitants to apply to register land as a green has been severely curtailed.  Elin Jones (Ceredigion, Plaid Cymru) recommended that a local authority should consider an application for a green …read more

New green for residents of Talybont, Ceredigion

1 May 2014

We are delighted that local people have succeeded in registering land at Talybont, Ceredigion, as a village green.  The land, known as Patchyn Plant, is on the east side of the Maes-y-deri housing estate. The application for green status was made to Ceredigion Council by Ms Sue Jones-Hughes in November 2011 on the ground that the land had been used by local people for lawful sports and pastimes for 20 years, without being stopped or asking permission.  She considered that it therefore qualified as a green.  Once registered as a green, the land is protected from development. The landowner, housing association Tai Ceredigion Cyf, which has planning permission for four dwellings there, objected to the application. The council held a …read more

Circuit of Wales developers withdraw application for works on common

17 April 2014

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

11 April 2014

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

Glastir scheme recognises public benefits of common land

27 March 2014

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

Welsh Government’s threat to village greens

20 February 2014

We have responded robustly to the Welsh Government’s draft Planning Bill in which it proposes to prohibit the registration of land as a town or village green where it has been identified for development. The government also plans to enable landowners to deposit statements with the registration (unitary) authority, challenging people’s use of the land for recreation. At present, local people can apply to register land as a green if they have enjoyed it for 20 years for informal recreation, without being stopped or given permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘These proposals strike a blow at the heart of local communities, preventing them from securing the land they have long enjoyed. …read more

We welcome electronic registers for Welsh commons

18 February 2014

We are delighted that the Welsh Minister for Natural Resources, Alun Davies, has pledged to introduce electronic registers for all common land in Wales. He made the announcement on 12 February, undertaking to invest £5 million in the project which will be completed by the end of 2017. There are 175,000 hectares of common land in Wales, 8.5 per cent of the land area, and commons are important for their contribution to the landscape and biodiversity of Wales, as well as to the hill-farming economy and for public access.  The electronic registers will replace the 50-year-old paper registers and will be accurate and accessible. This is a great step forward for common land in Wales.  It will help to raise …read more

Saving Welsh village greens from changes in planning law

17 February 2014

The Open Spaces Society opposes the Welsh Government’s draconian proposals in its draft Planning Bill to make it more difficult for people to register  land as a town or village green.  The government wants to prohibit applications where land has been identified for planning, and to enable landowners to submit declarations to the common registration authorities which put an end to the public’s use of the land as of right. We are calling on the government to improve the law in favour of the public, and to amend the greens’ guidance to introduce timescales and greater dialogue in the process and to give registration authorities greater powers to reject vexatious applications.   We therefore propose the following changes in law and …read more

Industrial development on South Wales common

22 January 2014

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

Disused railway should be village green for Llanmorlais

21 January 2014

The community of Llanmorlais, a small village seven miles west of Swansea, could see a strip of disused railway confirmed as their village green after a public inquiry in March. James Matthews, an Open Spaces Society member, has made the application after villagers completed evidence of their uninterrupted use of the land for 20 years. We welcome our member’s application for a village green. ‘This will be a fabulous asset for a small community, protecting the disused railway for local people to continue to enjoy for informal recreation,’ says Jay Kynch, our local correspondent in South Wales. ‘What is most important is that local residents used the green, for play and other informal recreation, between 1989 and 2009 without seeking …read more

We urge Welsh environmental body to champion common land

13 January 2014

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

Welsh Government wants to pave the way for development of green spaces

18 December 2013

We have condemned the Welsh Government’s draft Planning Bill in which it proposes to pave the way for development of open spaces by changing the law for registering land as a town or village green. The Welsh Government wants to make it impossible to apply to register land as a green where that land is subject to any planning restriction. This law was introduced in England earlier this year in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘We are dismayed that the Welsh Government plans to copy the Westminster government in introducing these damaging changes to the law. They will mean that once much-loved land is threatened with development, it will be too late for …read more

Our Caerphilly activist wins Environmental Champion Award

10 December 2013

Maggie Thomas, our local correspondent for Caerphilly, has won the Environmental Champion prize in Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Pride in your Place award, for her work in defending public paths and open spaces. Maggie, who lives in Crosskeys, is also membership secretary for Islwyn Ramblers. Says Maggie: ‘I was thrilled to receive this award on a personal level and on behalf of the organisations I represent. I hope that people will be encouraged to find out more about the work that the Open Spaces Society, Ramblers and the Twmbarlwm Society do and be prepared to volunteer in those and other organisations which help to improve our environment’. Adds Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘Maggie certainly deserves this award for all …read more

Path to Morfa Beach is saved from closure

9 December 2013

The path to Morfa Beach, Longlands Lane at Margam in Neath Port Talbot, has been saved from closure. This follows a public inquiry last month at which the objectors included the society, the Save Morfa Beach campaign group, the Ramblers and many individuals. The inquiry inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, ruled that Longlands Lane (footpath 92) should not be extinguished. She said ‘It is clear from the evidence that footpath 92 has been used by the public extensively in the past, and is still used, to gain access to Margam Sands, or Morfa Beach as it is also known.’ She recognised that stopping up the footpath would ‘cause considerable distress to a large number of people’. She noted that footpath 92 …read more

We fight devastation of Swansea commons

27 November 2013

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

Welsh ministers refuse private works on Aberdovey Common

20 September 2013

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’re prepared for the fight to save the path to Morfa Beach

16 September 2013

We have taken the next step in our campaign to save a vital public path to Morfa Beach near Margam on the South Wales coast. We have submitted our evidence to the forthcoming public inquiry into Neath Port Talbot’s Council’s plan to close the popular Longlands Lane, footpath 92, and to move a nearby path, footpath 93, from the edge of dunes to a disused railway. The site is alongside the Tata steelworks. The society, with the Ramblers, Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, Save Morfa Beach and many others, is strongly opposed to the plan. Because the proposal was contested, the council had to send it to the Planning Inspectorate for determination, and there will be a public …read more

Development approved on Llanberis common

3 September 2013

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

Equestrians recognised as vulnerable road-users by Welsh Government

We welcome the inclusion of equestrians among vulnerable road-users in the Welsh Government’s recently-released Road Safety Framework for Wales, which sets out its approach to road safety until 2020.* The Welsh Government’s decision to put horses alongside pedestrians and cyclists follows lobbying led by the British Horse Society along with Open Spaces Society members. It is expected that this new policy will cause the Welsh Government and local authorities to engage more actively with horse-riders and carriage-drivers when they are considering road safety, and it will raise the issue of safety measures where horses are regularly ridden or driven on the road network. The Welsh Government recognises that collisions of vehicles with horses are life threatening to horse and rider, …read more

Minister rules that ‘Circuit of Wales’ development will not be called in

23 August 2013

We are distressed that Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration in the Welsh Government, has ruled that the application for the ‘Circuit of Wales’ motor-racing centre will not be called in, but left for Blaenau Gwent Council to determine as it sees fit. The council has already granted outline consent to the Heads of the Valleys Development Company’s application last month. We were deeply disappointed when, a fortnight ago, the environmental body Natural Resources Wales unexpectedly withdrew its request for a call-in.  We are asking questions about this under the Freedom of Information Act. We were among the objectors who wrote to the minister, urging him to call the application in because of its national significance.  We consider …read more

Picket Mead Common to be dug up

21 August 2013

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

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

14 August 2013

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

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

1 August 2013

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

Our challenge to Wales’s new environmental body

31 March 2013

We have welcomed the new environmental body, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which comes into existence today (1 April)  and we have set it a number of challenges. The common land of Wales is immensely important for its natural beauty, wildlife habitats, archaeology, culture and opportunities for informal recreation.  Eight per cent of Wales is common land.  So we want the new body to give full attention to the protection and good management of commons, for their public and environmental benefits. We should like to see: NRW’s advocacy for the Commons Act 2006 to be implemented in full, throughout Wales, to provide for updating the registers and formation of commons councils, so that commons are properly mapped and managed; use of …read more

‘Heavenly’ Carmarthenshire commons at risk from wind-development

11 March 2013

We have objected to two applications from RES UK & Ireland Ltd for wind turbines and associated works on common land in Carmarthenshire. RES wants to erect 21 wind turbines, 15 of them on common land, with met masts, access tracks, hardstanding, highway widening and fencing. The commons are Mynydd Llanllwni Common and Mynydd Llanfighangel Rhos-y-Corn Common, two prominent hills roughly ten miles south west of Lampeter. RES needs the consent of the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, both for works on common land and to exchange some of the common affected. This is in addition to planning permission, which has been refused by Carmarthenshire Council and against which RES has appealed. These commons are very special. They are …read more

Swansea Council to decide fate of Mynydd y Gwair Common

6 February 2013

We have renewed our call to Swansea Council to reject the application for 16 wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair common. The planning committee is to determine the application from RWE npower tomorrow (7 February). We objected strongly to the application because it will destroy the magnificent stretch of unspoilt common land, eight miles north of Swansea. We believe that the proposed development would rip the heart out of the common. Mynydd y Gwair is a breezy upland close to urban centres. It is of huge importance to local people for informal recreation—wild country on their doorstep. The public has the right to walk here and commoners have rights to graze their animals. It would be vandalism to site 16 …read more

Development proposed on Llanberis common

2 January 2013

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

We oppose plans to dig up Swansea’s pearl of a common

19 December 2012

We have objected strongly to plans by Carrington Moore Estates, in which the former Welsh rugby captain Andy Moore has an interest, to dig up Picket Mead Common at Newton, Swansea. The developers 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. Before the development can go ahead, the developers need the consent of the Environment Minister for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The public has the right to walk and ride all over this small common and to enjoy this …read more

Dismay at threat to mid-Wales beauty spot

15 November 2012

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

Brutal turbines of Mynydd y Gwair common

1 October 2012

We have objected strongly to a planning application from RWE npower to site 16 wind turbines, with tracks and infrastructure, on Mynydd y Gwair common, a majestic hillside eight miles north of Swansea. There have been a number of turbine applications here in the past to which the society has objected. This is registered common land and the wrong place for such development. These turbines would be a brutal eyesore in this rural landscape. It is astonishing that the developers can claim that the turbines ‘will not conflict with the open-access common land and other public rights of way’. How can people possibly enjoy their rights to walk and ride over this land when there are 16 wind turbines, with …read more

Chippenham Mead village green saved from development

30 August 2012

The Welsh Government has not given consent for an application from Monmouth Sports Club to erect a large covered shelter on Chippenham Mead village green, Monmouth, in connection with the sporting activities there.. The club applied to the Welsh Government for permission to construct the works on the village green having obtained planning permission. Mr Stephen Jones of the Welsh Government planning division concluded that consent could not be granted because the green is subject to a scheme of management; therefore works could not be allowed unless Monmouthshire County Council removed that part of the green from the scheme. In addition, Mr Jones gave an informal decision on the application on its merits and resolved that it was unacceptable because …read more

Active travel plans for Wales: proceed with caution

14 August 2012

We have responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the Active Travel (Wales) Bill. While we welcome the focus on walking and cycling, as healthy, sustainable and enjoyable means of travel, we are worried that if the Welsh Government gives the local authorities new duties to create integrated networks for walkers and cyclists, their existing duties to maintain public paths will suffer.  Official surveys show that only about half the paths of Wales are in good order, with numerous paths blocked, intimidating or difficult to use.  If there are to be extra duties on local authorities, there must also be ring-fenced funding as there was for the Wales Coastal Path.  Otherwise all path users will lose out. We are also …read more

We oppose land swap in Rhondda village

30 July 2012

We have objected to plans to swap part of the village green, at Chapel Street, Blaencwm, to allow development.  Glaister Russell Developments Ltd has applied to the Environment Minister for permission to deregister 238 square metres of the green and to provide land in exchange, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. Says Jay Kynch, our local correspondent for Rhondda Cynon Taff: ‘This is a quiet Valleys’ village where the village green is important, for the landscape setting and for community recreation.  Children play here and older people, many of whom remember the old colliery, enjoy sitting there.  There is an abundance of wildlife—sparrowhawks, buzzards, woodpeckers and squirrels.  ‘The strip of land being offered in exchange is inferior, it …read more

Give more recognition to Wales’s unique common land

1 June 2012

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

We call for new Wales body to focus on commons, spaces and paths

9 May 2012

We have called for the new single environmental body in Wales to focus on common land, open spaces and public paths. The society has responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation paper, Natural Resources Wales. This invites views on the arrangements for establishing and directing a new body for the management of Wales’s natural resources, by combining the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). We are concerned that the important work currently undertaken by CCW could get swamped by all the other functions of a single body. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We want to be sure that the new body will give priority to public access and recreation, and to the public path network and …read more

New golfing-plans on Walton Heath Common

19 April 2012

We have objected to plans by Walton Heath Golf Club to use part of Walton Heath Common, in Surrey, as a ‘golf-practice facility’. The golf club has submitted a planning application to Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. The land is registered common land and the public has the right to walk and ride here. We believe that the development will conflict both with the rural nature of the area and with the public’s use and enjoyment of the common. We understand that in this case there are plans to provide common land in exchange, but that it is some distance away and therefore not a fair swap. The Open Spaces Society is consulted on all exchange applications and we shall …read more

Unlawful fence across Brecon Beacons commons must go

25 September 2011

The Welsh Government has refused retrospective consent for a four-and-a-half-mile-long fence across common land in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The fence runs from near Pontsticill Reservoir in the south, crossing the hillside via Upper Neuadd Reservoir, passing just to the east of the famous summits of Pen y Fan and Cribyn and then cutting down through Cwm Cynwyn. It was erected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic, but it should have been removed within five years and was not. Therefore, since 2006 it has been unlawful since it required consent from the Welsh environment minister under section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925. In September 2009, the Brecon …read more

Unlawful fence across Brecon Beacons commons must go

6 September 2011

The Welsh Government has refused retrospective consent for a four-and-a-half-mile-long fence across common land in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The fence runs from near Pontsticill Reservoir in the south, crossing the hillside via Upper Neuadd Reservoir, passing just to the east of the famous summits of Pen y Fan and Cribyn and then cutting down through Cwm Cynwyn. It was erected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic, but it should have been removed within five years and was not. Therefore, since 2006 it has been unlawful since it required consent from the Welsh environment minister under section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925. In September 2009, the Brecon …read more