Paths or open spaces under threat? A problem solved

The Open Spaces Society has been defending open spaces in England and Wales since 1865.

We share our experience of defending public access to paths and open spaces

The society has been defending the right of the public to use and enjoy paths and open spaces since 1865. We give advice to our members including individuals, campaigning groups, local authorities and community/parish councils on how to protect public rights of way, common land, town and village greens and open spaces .

We want the experience from this casework to inform as wide an audience as possible so that when access to paths and open spaces is challenged this knowledge can be helpful to all concerned.

If one of these case studies looks familiar to you, and you'd like us to look at your own circumstances, why not join the society and ask for our help?


  • public paths and right of way
  • open and green spaces
  • town and village greens
  • commons



How can car-parking which is impinging on a common be controlled?


We advised a parish council on a development adjoining a common, which had no known owner but was subject to management by the local authority under the Commons Act 1899, and which would involve vehicles driving over the common. Part of the parking spaces were on the common itself.

We advised that the previous use of the adjoining land might have given rise to private rights to drive over or park on that land.

However, the planting arrangements on the new development site extended to part of the common and (notwithstanding any private rights) were contrary to the terms of the scheme, and the local authority had a duty under the scheme to enforce against encroachments.


Horse-riding, though tolerated, is damaging a common - how can we achieve a compromise that preserves access and the integrity of the common?


A parish council asked us for advice about restricting access for horse riders on local rural commons, following episodes of damage. We were able to explain the access rights on the commons, and the particular effect of the commons being held by a local authority under the Open Spaces Act 1906.

We also addressed what could be done to control access onto the common by horse riders and others and how measures are regulated by Part 3 of the Commons Act 2006, as well as the power to make byelaws.

But we advocated engagement with the local horse riding community as the best way of establishing consensual principles for riding on the commons, and suggested ideas that might be considered, as well as potential points of contact to establish a dialogue.

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Need to know more?

  • Frequently asked questions: commons

    Common questions and answers on the topic of common land.

  • How do we protect open spaces?

    Read our article about protecting open and green space close to where people live.

  • Frequently asked questions: rights of way

    Common questions and answers about public paths and rights of way.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Village & Town Greens

    Common questions and answers about town and village greens.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Open Spaces

    Common questions and answers about open and green spaces