The Commons Act 2006 is arranged in five parts:
Part 1: registration, Part 2: management, Part 3: works, Part 4: miscellaneous, and Part 5: supplementary and general.
Where Part 1 has been fully implemented, it repeals and replaces the Commons Registration Act 1965.
Part 1: registration
Part 1 updates and replaces the system for registration of common land and town or village greens, and of rights of common exercisable over such land. But so far, Part 1 has been fully implemented in only nine pioneer commons registration authorities, leaving nearly 150 others still operating under the Commons Registration Act 1965, but with some long-term transitional arrangements.
Reregistration of common land
Since 2015, there is a new opportunity to register lost commons in Cumbria and North Yorkshire. These two counties have been added to the list of seven pioneer areas in England where commons can be put back on the register under Part 1.
Several hundred square kilometres of ‘waste land’ that was eligible for registration under the Commons Registration Act 1965 was not, in fact, finally registered. As a consequence, it ceased to be recognised as common land. A partial remedy for this defect in the earlier legislation is provided by Part 1. Under paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Act, applications that failed under the original registration process may, in certain circumstances, be reconsidered – offering, in effect, a second chance for the land to be confirmed (‘re-registered’) as common. Land that is re-registered in this way will enjoy the special legal protection afforded to common land. It will also in due course become subject to the public right of access introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; and, may qualify as a section 193 ‘urban’ common (in which case, it would also be subject to a right of access for horse-riders).
The nine pioneer areas are:
• Blackburn with Darwen
• North Yorkshire
(Click the links above to open a new window with the commons homepage of the relevant authority)
It is not yet possible to apply to register common land elsewhere in England, nor in Wales, pending full implementation of Part 1. This is now unlikely to happen before the next Parliament from 2020.
Our case officer Hugh Craddock writes a blog on commons and greens, which includes commentary on Part 1 issues: you’ll find it under the handle Pannageman.
Successful reregistration applications and case studies in pioneer areas
Please click here for further information on successful applications for re-registration under paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 in the Cornwall pioneer area, including two case studies.
Adding statutory common land or greens to the register
It is also possible in the pioneer areas to apply to register land as common land (paragraph 2) or town or village green (paragraph 3) where the land was omitted from registration under the Commons Registration Act 1965, but is identified as common land, or green, in or under a statute. This is most likely to be successful where the land is designated under a scheme of management and regulation made under Part I of the Commons Act 1899 (there are around 350 of these in England), is subject to a deed conferring access under section 193(2) of the Law of Property Act 1925, or was excepted from registration under section 11(1)–(4) of the Commons Registration Act 1965.
Regulations and guidance
The 2014 regulations and guidance, for the pioneer areas, prescribe the process for making applications to amend the registers of common land and town and village greens. The society has issued an information sheet Commons Act 2006 Part 1 (Registration) Implementation in pioneer areas as well as a free DIY guide on how to apply to register eligible commons. If you live in one of the pioneer areas, we would like to encourage you to take up the challenge of getting areas of common re-registered, and we are willing to help and advise you with this when you become a member of the society.
The Open Spaces Society is grateful to one of our supporters, Steve Byrne, who has been undertaking detailed research about re-registration, and has provided the set of search sheets and other guidance to applicants. Steve has recently created his own site which contains detailed information about the work he has done. To visit his site, click here. Steve has received support from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.
Deregistration of common land or town or village green
Under long-term transitional provisions, applications can be made to deregister certain areas of registered common land outside the pioneer areas, as well as in the pioneer areas. Applications must be made under paragraphs 6, 7, 8 or 9 of Schedule 2 to, or under section 19 of, the Commons Act 2006. The criteria are quite strict, but we are concerned that some commons registration authorities will grant applications without sufficient evidence that the criteria are satisfied, particularly if no objection is made.
Members are asked to monitor applications to their local commons registration authorities, to see whether any applications have been made under Schedule 2 or section 19, and to object, or bring such applications to the Society’s notice, if appropriate. Fortunately, it is very easy to arrange to be notified of new applications.
Making a request to a local authority
Anyone may request a pioneer commons registration authority to email notice of any applications or proposals made to amend the register. Outside the pioneer areas, anyone may request notice of any applications made to amend the register under paragraphs 6 to 9 of Schedule 2, or section 19. To make a request to a commons registration authority, we suggest you write to the authority using one of the following templates. Remember that in two-tier local authority areas, the commons registration authority is the upper tier authority: the same one as is responsible for highways and rights of way. Some inner city authorities may have little or no registered land, and may be a bit bemused to receive your request. Please note that you cannot require to be notified of applications to register town or village greens, or applications made under the Commons Registration Act 1965, made to non-pioneer commons registration authorities (but you can always ask, if you wish).
Finding your commons registration team
You can find details of the email address for the commons registration officer or team in some authorities on the website of the Association of Commons Registration Authorities (ACRA), and for pioneer authorities in our own information sheet. For other authorities, try Googling ‘commons registration [your authority]’, or look for the ‘Contact’ details on the home page of the authority’s website. If you can’t find the email address of the commons registration team, find out how to send an email or web-based message to the council’s contact centre, and ask that your request be forwarded to the officer responsible for the registration of commons and town or village greens.
Template email for pioneer commons registration authorities (Cumbria, Devon, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, but not including any unitary authorities within these areas, and Blackburn with Darwen, Cornwall, and Herefordshire)
Dear commons registration officer
Under regulation 21(1)(b) of the Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014, an authority which receives an application under Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 must “serve a notice of the application by e-mail on anyone who has previously asked to be informed of all applications, and who has given the authority an e-mail address for that purpose”. Under regulation 22(5), the authority is under a similar obligation in respect of proposals made by the authority for the purposes of Part 1. This email asks that I be informed of all applications made to, and proposals made by, your authority under these provisions. Please use the following email address for this purpose: email@example.com. I would appreciate an email confirming that my request has been acted upon.
Template email for non-pioneer commons registration authorities:
Dear commons registration officer
With effect from 15 December 2014, applications may be made to your authority, as a commons registration authority, under section 19 of, or any of paragraphs 6 to 9 of Schedule 2 to, the Commons Act 2006, for the deregistration of certain wrongly registered common land or town or village green.
Under regulation 21(1)(b) of the Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014 (as applied by para.2(h) of Schedule 8 to the Regulations), an authority which receives such an application must “serve a notice of the application by e-mail on anyone who has previously asked to be informed of all applications, and who has given the authority an e-mail address for that purpose”. This email asks that I be informed of all applications made to your authority under these provisions. Please use the following email address for this purpose: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would appreciate an email confirming that my request has been acted upon.