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Articles Related To Latest News

Appeal court upholds village green registrations in Lancashire and Surrey

We are delighted that the Court of Appeal has upheld the registration of village greens at Moorside Fields in Lancaster and Leach Grove Wood at Leatherhead in Surrey.(1) The two cases were heard together and the court has dismissed an appeal from Lancashire County Council which, as the education authority, owns the 13-hectare Moorside Fields. Our member, Janine Bebbington who acted for the Moorside Fields Community Group, had applied to register them as a green. The court also upheld an appeal from Timothy Jones, who had applied to register as a green 2.9 hectares at Leach Grove wood, which is owned by NHS Properties Ltd. The question common to both cases was whether the fact that the land was held …read more

Join us to celebrate the Spirit of Kinder

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, will be one of the expert speakers at a celebration of the Spirit of Kinder to be held at Friends Meeting House, Manchester on Saturday 21 April 2018 from 13.15 to 16.00. In addition to her work with OSS, Kate is chair and a vice-president of the Ramblers, vice-chair of the Campaign for National Parks and patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network. She was in the vanguard of the campaign for greater access to open country in England and Wales, and she continues to champion people’s rights to enjoy paths and open spaces in town and country. There will be displays about the history of the trespass and what local groups are doing …read more

Industrialisation of The Canyons, Torfaen

We have objected to an application from Peakman Ltd to develop Mynydd Llanhilleth Common, near Abertillery in Torfaen, south Wales. Peakman wants to build a new haul road, widen the existing Cefn Crib road and erect fencing on the common to enable it to extract aggregates from the nearby quarry.  Because the works affect common land, it must obtain the consent of Welsh Ministers for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. Walkers and horse-riders have rights of access over the common and the society considers that their enjoyment will be reduced, and that the development will adversely affect the landscape.  Moreover, if the road is widened, it will encourage faster driving, putting walkers and …read more

We remain vigilant for ancient Hertfordshire route

We are concerned that an ancient public route at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire remains under threat from development plans by Broxbourne School.  The intention is to demolish the old school and build a new academy, with 150 houses on the old school site. Broxbourne School has recently submitted amended plans, and the society notes that while these proposals do not include the rerouting of the old restricted byway, the school may wish to submit a future application to move it. The society, with the Wormley Society and the Friends of Wormley Open Spaces, objects strongly to any plan which would involve moving the old drovers’ way from its historic, direct route. The drovers’ road is now recorded as a restricted byway …read more

We fight loss of views from Oxfordshire footpath

We have objected to a massive development, proposed by Gladman Developments Ltd, on open land north of Caversham. South Oxfordshire District Council refused planning consent for 245 residential dwellings and other works on land off Peppard Road, at Emmer Green. Gladman has appealed and the appeal is to be heard in May. We have joined our members Eye and Dunsden Parish Council and the Chiltern Society, and others in fighting the plan. The society’s principal concern is the threat to the public footpath which runs across the southern part of the development site, between Bryant’s Farm and the housing estate to the east. It forms part of a longer network via Row Lane, Dunsden Green and Littlestead Green. At present, …read more

We oppose zip-wire in Honister Pass, Lake District

The society is backing the Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and other organisations and individuals in opposing the scheme. We have objected to an application from Honister Slate Mine for an aerial zip-wire over the Honister Pass in the Lake District National Park. The application is similar to one which the national park authority refused in 2012. The society considers that the zip-wire would be highly visible from the adjoining fells and would create an eyesore. This commercial recreational facility would be contrary to national park purposes. It would create an irreconcilable conflict with the protection of the natural beauty of the park, thereby transgressing the Sandford Principle, which requires that, where conservation and recreation are in …read more

We fight planning application on Royston Common

We have objected to the renewal of a planning application affecting common land in Hertfordshire. The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens, at Royston in Hertfordshire, have applied for the renewal of outline planning permission for eight dwellings on land at Sun Hill. This is registered common land and the conservators have already applied to de-register the 1.65-acre common and exchange it for woodland which is over a mile away. The society, Natural England, and many others opposed this common-land swap because the exchange land is inferior and much further from the town. This was considered at a public inquiry in January and the outcome is awaited. The society has objected to the renewal of planning permission because it considers …read more

Welsh Government confirms the importance of designated landscapes

On 13 March the Minister for the Environment in the Welsh Government, Hannah Blythyn, confirmed unequivocally ‘that all the existing designated landscapes will be retained and their purpose of conserving and enhancing natural beauty will not be weakened’. This came as a considerable relief to us because over the last few years the future of Wales’s designated landscapes—its national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty—had been uncertain. In 2015 a review of the designated landscapes, led by Professor Terry Marsden, resulted in an excellent report with recommendations for strengthening their role and the protection they offer. But the government did not act on this and instead instigated a further review by Lord Elis-Thomas. We feared that that this would …read more

Damaging plan for South Wales common withdrawn

We are pleased that Western Power Distribution (WPD) has withdrawn its proposal to place 15 electricity poles with an overhead line across Gwaun Cae Gurwen Common three miles north of Pontardawe in Neath Port Talbot. WPD had sought consent from Welsh ministers for works on common land under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We objected because of the adverse effect which the poles and electricity line would have on the open common. Walkers and riders have rights to roam over the common and their enjoyment would be impaired. The common is close to a number of settlements and is a valuable recreational resource for those who live here. WPD has now said that it is withdrawing the application …read more

We welcome Lords’ call for more funds for public access

We are delighted that a House of Lords Select Committee has recommended greater independence and resources for Natural England, the government’s adviser on conservation, landscape and public access. Last autumn we submitted evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. We expressed our concern at Natural England’s lack of independence. We argued that ‘Natural England has regrettably been sucked in to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It no longer has its own website, nor does it issue its own press releases. It has no independent voice as the government’s advisor … This lack of independence causes us deep concern; government needs a critical friend.’ Other organisations and …read more

Freshwater, Isle of Wight, sets fine example in protecting green space

We have congratulated Freshwater Parish Council for designating land as Local Green Space (LGS) in its neighbourhood plan. Freshwater, on the western side of the Isle of Wight, is a largely rural parish. The parish council has identified and designated 15 LGSs* which meet the government’s criteria. The council created a checklist against which to test the potential LGSs. They must not have an extant planning permission, nor be allocated for development in the local plan, they must not be extensive but must be local in character, close to the communities they serve and demonstrably special to that community. Once designated in the plan, the land is safe from development except in special circumstances. There was a parish referendum on …read more

New village green at Camrose in Pembrokeshire

The Lambston Parish Residents’ Association in Camrose community, Pembrokeshire, is celebrating the registration of an open space in Sutton as a village green. The one-acre site, just to the west of Haverfordwest, has been enjoyed by local people for informal recreation and social events for decades. Since the owner is not known, the Lambston residents organised volunteer days on the land to clear the scrub and remove dumped rubbish. With advice from the society, the group decided to register the land as a village green, thereby confirming the rights of local people to enjoy informal recreation there and protecting it from development. The group gathered evidence from local people who had enjoyed the land for 20 years without challenge or …read more

We fight loss of open space in Bolsover

We have joined the campaign against a development on land north of Clowne, at Bolsover in Derbyshire. The society has objected to an outline planning application from Waystone Ltd for mixed-use development, including employment land, 1,800 residential dwellings, a retirement village, hotel and much more. We have backed CPRE Derbyshire and others in opposing the plans. We argue that the development will destroy land which is enjoyed as public open space. We are deeply concerned at the loss of land which is much used by the public for informal recreation and for quiet relaxation. This land is treasured by local people and should be protected. Says Natalie Hoy, a resident of Clowne: ‘The proposal constitutes 24 hectares of unnecessary industrial …read more

We urge Powys Council to reject damaging development in Glasbury

We are concerned that Powys County Council’s principal planning officer has recommended approval of an outline planning application for 12 dwellings and associated works in the village of Glasbury on the River Wye in Powys. The application will be determined by the Planning, Taxi Licensing and Rights of Way Committee on Thursday 15 March. The planner, Gemma Bufton, recommends that the application be approved subject to a legal agreement (under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) to secure the provision of recreational and outdoor space. We objected to the development because it would be on land which has customarily been enjoyed by the public for informal recreation and would also affect public paths. Gwernyfed Community Council, …read more

Powys wind-turbine inquiry imminent

On the eve of the public inquiry into Hendy Wind Farm’s appeal against Powys County Council’s refusal of planning permission for seven wind-turbines near Llandegley Rocks, we have renewed our call for rejection of the plans. We are backing the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and many other organisations and individuals who oppose the scheme.  In written evidence to the inquiry we argue that the turbines would desecrate the beautiful countryside around Llandegley, five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys. The application, first submitted by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd in 2014, was refused by Powys County Council’s planning committee in April 2017.  The developers appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.  A 5-day public inquiry will open on 13 March, …read more

We speak at international congress on rural paths

Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers, is speaking today (7 March) at a congress* in Barcelona on paths in rural areas. Hugh will explain the importance of rural ways in England and Wales for informal recreation.  There are probably more than 200,000 kms of rural ways in England: footpaths, bridleway, carriageways, cycle paths and byways. Unique to England and Wales, these routes are highways in law, just like any road, and the public has the legal right to use them.  They are public routes crossing private land; the arteries of the countryside.  Hugh will tell the delegates of the duties of local authorities to record and maintain the paths and to keep them open, and the work of volunteers …read more

Fencing allowed on Betws Common, Ammanford

We are disappointed that Welsh ministers have approved an application from Betws Common Holdings for nearly one mile of new fences on Betws Common, near Ammanford in Carmarthenshire. Because the fence comprises works on common land which will prevent or impede access, the applicant needed the consent of Welsh Ministers under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.  The application was determined by planning inspector Joanna Burston on behalf of the ministers.  The application was for two lengths of fencing, with cattle-grids, gates and stiles, and was made to prevent livestock from straying and in the interests of biosecurity. The Open Spaces Society, which is notified of all applications for works on common land, objected to the fences because they …read more

We slate new Solihull road-scheme for neglecting walkers

We have objected to Highways England’s plans for the M42 junction 6 improvement scheme in Solihull.  The junction is between the M42 motorway and the A45 and it serves Birmingham International station. The society is concerned about the loss of public access on foot as a result of the scheme.  The proposal is for a new stretch of main road running to the west of the M42, and the society has noted that this would sever six public footpaths.  Walkers would have to walk lengthy diversions along roads where they would be at risk from vehicles and suffer from the pollution and noise they generate. The scheme falls within Solihull Metropolitan Borough and the plans are contrary to policy P18 …read more

Progress on Portsmouth harbour quayside road

Portsmouth campaigners, with our support, have made a big stride forward in getting a path around Camber Dock, at the mouth of the harbour, recognised as a public right of way. In 2014 Kenneth Bailey and Anna Koor of the Camber Action Group applied to Portsmouth City Council to add the route of approximately 575 metres in length to the official map of public rights of way (the definitive map).  The applicants needed to demonstrate that the route had been used for 20 years without challenge or interruption.  They initially submitted 11 user-evidence forms to this effect, subsequently providing evidence from over 90 people. The council refused the application, in part because it considered the use of the right of …read more

We call for new policy in London Plan to save green spaces

In our response to the London Mayor’s draft new London Plan we have called for London boroughs to dedicate their green spaces as town greens. The society has proposed the inclusion of a new policy: ‘Boroughs should dedicate any green spaces in their ownership as town greens, under the Commons Act 2006. This will protect the land in perpetuity and give local people rights of informal recreation there.’ We have also proposed that planning authorities should, in appropriate cases, require developers to dedicate town greens. This could apply to land within the development which has been designated to form open space or to other amenity land. We want to see much more land dedicated as town green, because it secures …read more

Protests over abuse of Clapham Common

Our local correspondent Jeremy Clyne has written to Lambeth Council to protest against the exploitation of open space in the borough, and the damage caused. The situation has become so critical that local people are saying the flagship Clapham Common might be better renamed ‘Clapham Commercial’. A large swathe of the common is still fenced off weeks after the end of a major winter event because of serious damage to the ground. Now the council is applying to itself for blanket planning permission to hold more than 100 days of events this year. It has been flooded with objections to the proposal. Residents complain that these so-called temporary events, many causing significant noisy disturbance to residents, are becoming a permanent …read more

Delight at withdrawal of ‘Zipper-mere’ plan

We are highly relieved that Treetop Trek has withdrawn its planning application for a massive zip-wire development across Thirlmere, in the heart of the Lake District National Park. The proposals included eight cables stretching across the lake, with take-off and landing points, gantries, more car-parking provision and buildings. Treetop Trek claims it has withdrawn the application because of opposition from the Ministry of Defence. The society was one of many objectors to the scheme, with the Friends of the Lake District, Campaign for National Parks, Ramblers, British Mountaineering Council and National Trust. There were 3,500 objections, and the application was due to be considered by the Lake District National Park authority on 7 March. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: …read more

A celebration at Wittersham, Kent

Twenty-five years ago our member Mavis King succeeded in getting Poplar Farm field and pond, at Wittersham in Kent, registered as a village green, VG235. The 1.5-acre site was threatened with developers and, with our help, Mavis saved it. On 16 November 2017 Mavis unveiled a plaque, which was fixed to a three-ton boulder of Leicester granite, at a ceremony on the green. The chairman of the parish council pronounced that the land was safe for ever. The village primary-school children each tapped the boulder in recognition of this splendid legacy. Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘The unveiling of the plaque on Poplar Farm field is a significant moment in the history of this land. The plaque proclaims that …read more

We call for new open space designation in Wales

We have called on the Welsh Government to introduce a statutory designation for open space, to ensure that it is properly protected and can be enjoyed by local people. The society has responded to the Welsh Government consultation on changes to town and village green legislation in the Planning (Wales) Act 2015.  Town and village greens are land where local people have a right for informal recreation, and land can be registered as a green once local people have enjoyed such recreation for 20 years without being stopped or given permission.  Once registered, the land is protected from development and encroachment and local people have rights of recreation in perpetuity. The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 restricts the opportunity to register …read more

Battle of Knutsford Heath

A new ‘Battle of Knutsford Heath’ is brewing in Cheshire East. TV chef Tom Kerridge plans to present ‘Pub in the Park’ on Knutsford Heath, which is protected common land, from 7 to 9 September 2018. We are calling for Knutsford Heath instead to be kept open to the public for quiet recreation. The society has censured proposals by the heath’s owner to stage the event on the heath, which would interfere with public access and deprive local people of the use of part of the heath for ten days in the late summer. Says our case officer Hugh Craddock: ‘Knutsford Heath is at the heart of the town, and subject to a public right of access for ‘air and …read more

We challenge British Car Auctions’ use of Yateley Common, Hampshire

British Car Auctions (BCA), which occupies part of the former Blackbushe Airport on Yateley Common in Hampshire, has withdrawn its application to the environment secretary for consent for works on the common. The application was made under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We had objected to the application. We were concerned that the existing and proposed works there are inconsistent with the status of land as common, where people have the right to walk. The society has written to BCA to ask if it now intends to remove those works and return the land to common, and to confirm that it will not undertake the works for which it applied for consent. We deplore the state of the …read more

Public inquiry into common-land swap at Therfield Heath, Royston

A public inquiry is being held on Tuesday (30 January) into the exchange of common land proposed by the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens in Hertfordshire. We have submitted an objection. The conservators wish to swap 1.65 acres of common land off Sun Hill at Royston in Hertfordshire for the same area of woodland over a mile away. The proposed exchange is to enable the conservators to build eight dwellings on the area of common to be deregistered, which is on the western side of Royston. Applications to exchange common land are determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. The …read more

Massive Chiltern development rejected

We are delighted that Wycombe District Council, Bucks, has rejected an application from West Waddy ADP to build up to 140 dwellings at Little Studdridge Farm, south of Stokenchurch in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The society joined many local objectors, including Stokenchurch and Ibstone Parish Councils and the Chiltern Society, in opposing the scheme. The reasons for refusal included the fact that the proposal was a major development in the Chilterns AONB and that the applicant had failed to show that there were exceptional circumstances to justify that the development would be in the public interest.  It failed to protect the rural character of the area or to respect the sense of place of Stokenchurch, and …read more

Environment charities welcome 25 Year Environment Plan, but Environment Act needs to secure its success

The Open Spaces Society has joined other organisations represented by Wildlife & Countryside Link in welcoming the Prime Minister’s commitments on the environment and the UK Government’s long awaited 25 Year Environment Plan which is launched today. The plan covers England and the UK’s international environmental commitments. The environment and animal welfare organisations support the scope of the plan and the UK Government’s ambition to restore nature in a generation. Particularly welcome are Government moves to establish a new watchdog to monitor environmental outcomes, to give the environment a voice and uphold environmental standards as we leave the EU. This should be given real teeth, to rival those of the EU’s Commission and the Courts. The charities are also encouraged …read more

Breckland councillors to determine controversial development plans at Dereham, Norfolk

On Monday (15 January) Breckland Council’s Planning Committee will determine the planning application to build 291 houses on agricultural land south of Dereham in Norfolk. There are more than 192 objectors, including the society, the Ramblers and five town and parish councils. This development on open countryside will bring no public benefit and no new opportunities for informal recreation. Although there is mention of new open space in the development, this is of little use where there is no link with the existing public right-of-way network. We do not consider that this substantial development has been thought through strategically. At the very least, the developers should create new, permanent public paths through the development, connecting new open spaces which should …read more

Manchester councillors to debate the future of Nutsford Vale

On Thursday (11 January) Manchester City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee will consider the planning application to build a school on open space at Nutsford Vale. This is a council-owned park on the borders of Longsight, Levenshulme and Gorton, in south-east Manchester. The planning application, from the council’s education department, is for a school building, sports hall, car-park and other facilities. The development, occupying about 5.5 hectares, would destroy nearly half the total area of the park. We have opposed the plan, along with our member, the Friends of Nutsford Vale. There are 162 objectors, including the Manchester and Salford Ramblers, and Greater Manchester Pedestrian Society. The proposal would also involve the felling of nearly 3,000 mature trees to make …read more

New Northern Forest: great opportunity for public involvement

We have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that a new Northern Forest is to be created along the M62 corridor, as part of the government’s 25-year Environment Plan. The forest is to span more than 120 miles between the cities of Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. The society is particularly pleased that this will provide ‘a tranquil space to be enjoyed by millions of people living in the area’. However, it urges that new public access is created by means of permanent paths and dedicated access land and village greens. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘This is a magnificent opportunity to provide sites and routes for informal recreation close to where people live. We trust that the access will …read more

It’s official: public access is a public good

We are delighted by the commitment from the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, that ‘public access is a public good’ and should be part of the post-Brexit payment scheme for farmers. Michael Gove was setting out his vision for the future of farming at the Oxford Farming Conference on 4 January.  He said that government will in future pay for what people value and that will include public access which ‘will help reconnect urban dwellers with the earth’ and will ‘help secure consent for investment in the countryside as well as support for British produce’. Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘These are welcome words.  Public access brings significant benefits, not least to people’s health and well-being and to rural economies …read more

We fight electricity line across South Wales common

Western Power Distribution hopes to site an overhead electricity-line, with 15 poles, on a South Wales common. The proposed electricity-line would run for nearly a mile across Gwaun Cae Gurwen common, about three miles north of Pontardawe in Neath Port Talbot.  Because the line would affect common land, Western Power Distribution must obtain the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate (PINS), under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. Western Power wants the 11kv overhead line because it will connect to a wind turbine at Perthi Gwynion Farm, Rhydyfro near Pontardawe. We consider that the line will be an eyesore and will spoil the enjoyment of walkers and riders who have access rights across this open common.  The common …read more

End the scandal of secret paths

Fifty years on from the Countryside Act 1968, which required local authorities to signpost a public path where it leaves a road, many paths still lack signposts. We are calling for an end to this scandal. The society and the Ramblers were responsible for winning the signposting provision which was enshrined in section 27 of the Countryside Act 1968.  This states that a highway authority (county or unitary council) must erect and maintain a signpost where a public path leaves a metalled road.  The signpost must show the status of the path, eg whether it is a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway open to all traffic.  If the authority considers it convenient and appropriate, the destination of the path …read more

The Open Spaces Society slams ‘zipper-mere’ plan

We have slammed plans by Treetop Trek for a massive zipwire development across Thirlmere, in the heart of the Lake District National Park.  The proposals include eight cables stretching across the lake, with take-off and landing points, gantries, additional car-parking provision and buildings. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘These plans would make Thirlmere into Zipper-mere. The development would dominate this splendid landscape and destroy its peace.’ The society argues that the works would be in breach of the Lake District National Park Authority’s statutory purpose, to conserve, and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the national park.  They would constitute a major development which the park authority is pledged reject unless there is an overriding national …read more

We fight new ‘warehouse’ structure’ in Chilterns

We have objected to a planning application for an indoor riding-arena at Rocky Lane Farm, Rotherfield Greys in South Oxfordshire. The site adjoins a public footpath. The proposed development is a massive, ugly, steel barn which would be visible from many public paths. We argue that, at over seven metres high, the building would be seen from the public footpath which runs alongside the site, because it would tower over the fence and hedge, generating an unpleasant enclosed atmosphere on the public footpath. This structure, which would look like a warehouse on an industrial estate, would be visible not only from the adjacent footpath but from other nearby footpaths and bridleways. It would spoil people’s enjoyment of these attractive routes …read more

Northumberland County Council drops plan for Amble Braid village green

Northumberland County Council has withdrawn its plan to deregister 4,400 square metres (just over one acre) of Amble Braid village green in order to create a car-park. The society was among the objectors to the proposal which was to be determined by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The society helped local people to register the much-loved Amble Braid as a village green in 2009. Then it was under threat of a supermarket on the adjoining land. As a village green, the land is protected from development and local people have rights of recreation here. Northumberland County Council owns the land. It applied under section 16 of the Commons …read more

A new village green: the perfect Christmas gift for your community

We have called on landowners, particularly local councils, to consider dedicating land as a town or village green as the perfect Christmas gift to the community. Once land is registered as a green it is protected, by nineteenth-century laws, from development and local people have rights of informal recreation there. It is open to any landowner voluntarily to register land as a green, under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006.  The registration process is simple; the only requirements are to provide proof of ownership, obtain the consent of any leaseholder or chargeholder, complete a form and send it to the commons registration authority (county or unitary council.  The society’s guidance on this is here. Landowners, including parish and community …read more

We persuade Harwich developer to provide new town green

We have persuaded M Scott Properties Ltd to provide a town green, 160 square metres in extent, in exchange for part of a town green of the same area which it proposes to take for development. In July M Scott Properties applied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for consent to remove from the register part of Dovercourt Town Green south of Harwich in Essex. The company wished to incorporate the 160 square metres of green into the residential development adjacent to the former Delfords Factory site. We objected, arguing that the developers should provide land in exchange, and that government policy required this unless there were compelling reasons against. At first the developer resisted, …read more

New village green at Widmer Fields, Bucks

We are delighted that the Grange Area Trust has voluntarily registered Widmer Fields as a village green. This means that this 42-acre open space, at Hazlemere and Widmer End in Buckinghamshire, is saved for ever and local people have rights of recreation here. The Grange Area Trust has been campaigning for more than 40 years to rescue the land, which has been threatened with development. Five years ago it bought the fields and now Buckinghamshire County Council has confirmed the land’s registration as a village green. In 2013 the Grange Area Trust won our national Open Space Award for its work to save the fields for the public. This is a significant moment in the history of Widmer Fields. Village-green …read more

Books make great Christmas presents

Do you know someone who loves the outdoors, perhaps enjoys walking, riding or cycling in our countryside, on coastal paths or in urban parks or green spaces? OSS has written, curated and sponsored a range of publications on topics including a history of public paths, how to register and protect a village green and an insight into commons. There are stocking-filler magazines from just £2, fully-illustrated books at £5 and discounts on four book bundles to £12 – something for every budget and interest. OSS is a small charity that has been successfully campaigning to protect commons, village greens and public paths for over 150 years. The income generated from publications and memberships is vital to our small charity – …read more

An alternative Christmas present

Make Christmas 2017 the year you introduce your family and friends to the Open Spaces Society by giving membership gift vouchers. The perfect present idea for walkers, riders and cyclists who enjoy the outdoors and appreciate our amazing landscapes and public paths. It starts from just £3/month or £33 for a whole year for an individual subscription and you can be assured that the money is going towards a great cause that will benefit future generations. OSS is a small charity, that has been successfully campaigning to protect commons, village greens and public paths for over 150 years. It helps more than 600 individuals, groups and communities annually to defend their local green spaces and paths from the pressures of development …read more

Doors open to rescue lost commons in Cumbria and North Yorkshire

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

Kirkby Moor turbines must go

We are delighted that South Lakeland District Council’s planning committee has rejected an application to extend the life of the Kirkby Moor wind farm to 2027. The application was made by Innogy Renewables on behalf of Zephyr Investments Ltd. We objected because the turbines are a severe intrusion in a wild landscape, highly visible from many directions and in particular from the Lake District National Park. Furthermore, the 12 turbines occupy a significant area of registered common land, where the public has the right to walk and commoners have the right to graze stock.  The moor is also criss-crossed with public rights of way. It is wonderful news that the council has rejected the plans.  Now we need to make …read more

We fight festival closure of Thames Path National Trail

We have objected to plans by the Henley Festival to close the Thames Path National Trail during the event which runs from Wednesday 11 July to Sunday 15 July 2018 Every year the Festival applies to Wokingham Borough Council, the highway authority, for the temporary closure of the path during the Festival, and the council has agreed.  The Open Spaces Society, Remenham Parish Council, the Ramblers and others have consistently objected because the closure is unnecessary.  The organisations argue that the Festival should rearrange its activities to keep the path open. We are dismayed that once again the Festival wants to shove walkers off the Thames Path National Trail.  These walkers include visitors from all over Britain and from overseas, …read more

The search for lost commons

We have launched a search for common land which must be registered and protected. The Commons Registration Act 1965 required all commons to be registered but allowed only three years for this to be done.  Some commons which were provisionally registered were subsequently struck off on spurious grounds.  Now, it is possible, in the ‘pioneer areas’(1) of England and throughout Wales, for anyone to apply to their county or unitary authority (the commons registration authority) to register land which was wrongly struck off, provided it satisfies certain tests to show that it was originally provisionally registered and still is common land. We are encouraging people to claim their commons. Says Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers: ‘It is important …read more

Conditional welcome to commencement of common-land provisions in Wales

We have welcomed the commencement of further provisions about common land in Wales—but have lamented the Welsh Government’s failure to communicate. The Welsh Ministers have made a commencement order(1) to bring into force provisions in the Commons Act 2006 about freedom of access to information in the commons registers, and about obtaining official copies of the registers. The order also corrects a mistake made by the Welsh Ministers earlier this year, that meant that new provisions for applications to register and deregister common land in Wales were defective where an application was granted, because they did not enable a local authority to amend its registers held under the Commons Registration Act 1965(2). Commenting on the commencement order, Hugh Craddock, one …read more

Henley hosts training for recording public paths

Walkers, riders and cyclists from Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire gathered at Henley-on-Thames town hall last Saturday (18 November) to learn how to research and record lost public paths.  Henley’s Mayor, Kellie Hinton, and Councillor Sarah Miller were there. We organised the event with our member Henley-on-Thames Town Council.  Experts Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey presented the training. On 1 January 2026 the official map of public paths (the definitive map) is to be closed to applications for the addition of routes based on historic evidence.  Even if a route has not been used, if there is historic evidence that it was once a highway and it has never been legally stopped up it should be shown on the map.  Now …read more

Court of Appeal rules against quiet enjoyment of London’s parks

We are disappointed that the Court of Appeal has upheld the use of London parks for major ticket-only entertainments. In its judgment today,(1) the court finds that Haringey borough council acted lawfully in hiring out part of Finsbury Park for the purposes of a major entertainment event, the Wireless Festival, in 2016.(2) The court rejected the claims of the appellant, the Friends of Finsbury Park, and of the society (which received permission to be heard by the court), that the council’s primary duty was to hold the park in trust for public recreation, and that facilitating a major event, to the exclusion of the public generally, was a breach of that trust. The court found that section 145 of the …read more

Planning for the right homes in the right places

Working through Wildlife and Countryside Link, the society and eight other organisations including The Woodland Trust and The Wildlife Trusts have supported a response to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the consultation, Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places. We believe the government’s ambition for housing must include the provision of access to local green space and consideration of green infrastructure benefits for health and wellbeing. We urged that there must be no weakening of environmental protection in the forthcoming review of the National Planning Policy Framework.

We join fight to save Nutsford Vale park, Manchester

We have urged Manchester City Council to reject the proposed development of Nutsford Vale, a council-owned park on the borders of Longsight, Levenshulme and Gorton in south-east Manchester. We have backed our member, the Friends of Nutsford Vale, in opposing a proposed school building, sports hall, car-park and other facilities. The development, occupying about 5.5 hectares, would smother nearly half the total area of the park. It would also involve the felling of nearly 3,000 mature trees to make way for the buildings. The trees are important in fending off pollution and flooding. We are pleased to help the Friends of Nutsford Vale to fight this pernicious plan. This open space is of immense value to local people for refreshment …read more

Welsh Government consultation on town and village greens

The Welsh Government issued a consultation on town and village greens on 23 October 2017. It is a highly technical document which deals with the proposed content of regulations which will be required to commence sections 52, 53 and Schedule 6 of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015. The regulations will govern the procedure to enable landowners to deposit a statement to bring to the end any period of use for recreation. However it will still be possible, where an applicant can satisfy the criteria to register land as a town or village green, to apply within a specified period following the deposit of a notice. OSS will be submitting a response and, if any members wish to send comments to …read more

Local councils have a vital role in creating and caring for open space

‘Local councils have a vital role to play in creating sustainable communities—and an important means of achieving this is through the creation and care of open space.’ So said our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, at the National Association of Local Councils’ annual conference in Milton Keynes on Tuesday 31 October. Nicola led a workshop, giving top tips on how local councils can manage their open spaces. Nicola continued: ‘We urge local councils to work with their communities to record land as Local Green Space in the local or neighbourhood plan. Local Green Space can be any land which is demonstrably special to a community, and designation by the local authority may offer some protection. ‘We also suggest that councils consider …read more

Our new book to celebrate public paths

We have published a new book, Public Paths, which is an exploration of the origins of ancient tracks, droves, bridleways and footpaths which make Britain unique. It is written by our chairman, Graham Bathe. At a time of austerity, the opportunity to use and enjoy public paths has never been more important. Walking is the most popular form of recreation in Britain. Over 80 per cent of British people walk at least once a week. In the English countryside, walkers voluntarily spend £6 billion a year, supporting nearly a quarter of a million jobs. Enjoyment of the countryside is dependent on the network of rights of way that spread across the landscape, relics of a time when these were the …read more

We fight plan to grab Amble Braid village green for car-park

We have objected to Northumberland County Council’s plan to swap 4,400 square metres (just over one acre) of Amble Braid village green for a similar-sized but inferior area to the south. The society helped local people to register the land as a village green in 2009. Then it was under threat of a supermarket on the adjoining land. As a village green, the land is protected from development and local people have rights of recreation there. Northumberland County Council, the landowner, has applied under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006 to remove a strip of land from the heart of the village green and replace it with part of the recreational area north of The Gut. The Open Spaces …read more

The Great Outdoors Extra Mile award

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine’s The Extra Mile award. She has been nominated for her work at the Open Spaces Society and the Ramblers. Kate has been in post at the OSS for 33 years. She is also vice-president and vice-chair of the Ramblers, a trustee of the Campaign for National Parks and the Dartmoor Preservation Association, and patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network. She has campaigned for commons, greens, open spaces and paths for most of her life. You can vote online here.

Newly-registered common at Brockdish, Norfolk

We have congratulated our member, Brockdish Parish Council in south Norfolk, for restoring a lost common to the common-land register. The council showed that an area of land on the south-west side of Common Lane had been wrongly omitted from the common-land register when the adjoining common was registered as CL125 in 1968 under the Commons Registration Act 1965. The mistake was made because of the lack of clarity on the plan which accompanied the original application for Brockdish Common, so only part of the land was registered. There was no provision to correct mistakes in the registers until part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 came into effect in England in 2015. Brockdish Parish Council seized this opportunity to …read more

Rural payments agency must disclose cross-compliance obligation

We are delighted that the information commissioner has forced the rural payments agency to disclose information about subsidy entitlement. The society asked the agency under freedom of information legislation to disclose whether farmland in West Sussex was being claimed for subsidy under the basic payments scheme, and whether it was subject to cross-compliance.(1) The agency refused to provide any information, and declined to state whether it held any information at all. The society asked the information commissioner to intervene.(2) It said that, as the Government already publishes information about how much subsidy farmers receive(3), and whether subsidy is claimed on particular land under agri-environment management agreements,(4) it was absurd that the agency refused to say on which land basic payment …read more

Signed, sealed, delivered! Public footpaths signposted in memory of Gloucestershire benefactor

Gloucestershire County Council’s public rights of way team has recently completed the replacement and repair of numerous footpath signs in parishes around Cheltenham. These include Andoversford, Sevenhampton, Stoke Orchard and Winchcombe. The work was made possible by the Bradbury Bequest, a fund which was established in 1959 on the death of Herbert Lucas Bradbury, a local benefactor. He left £1,500 in trust for the erection and maintenance of signposts on public footpaths within a six-mile radius of Cheltenham Post Office, which was at that time located in The Promenade. Originally the fund was administered by the Open Spaces Society, and the Gloucestershire Ramblers, led by the late Tony Drake, arranged for the signposts to be erected. In 2013 the society …read more

Blackbushe Airport must remain part of Yateley Common

We have objected to the application by Blackbushe Airport Ltd to remove the common-land status from the airport on Yateley Common in Hampshire. The post-war history of Yateley common is one of conflict between the peaceful use of the common for recreation and nature conservation, and the retention and expansion of wartime aerodrome facilities. Yateley common, including much of the aerodrome, was rightly registered as common land in March 1975 under the Commons Registration Act 1965 by Commons Commissioner Baden Fuller but, before and after, the aerodrome has continued to be developed notwithstanding its status as common land, and commoners’ rights to use it for grazing and other purposes. Now, almost half a century after its registration, Blackbushe Airport Ltd …read more

We welcome Welsh Government’s proposals for greater access rights

We are delighted that the Welsh Government is proposing an increase in public-access opportunities in Wales. The society has responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation, ‘Taking Forward Wales’s Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’. Chapter 4 is about access to the outdoors. We welcome proposals for legal access to coast and cliff and for greater access to riverbanks and lakesides. We have urged the Welsh Government to consider extending access to other land types, provided there is no adverse effect on the existing system of public paths. The Welsh Government proposes to develop an all-Wales digital map of access. The society would like to see commons and town and village greens included. The society strongly supports the proposal to repeal the …read more

Walkers urge Wycombe councillors not to close important town-path

We are dismayed that Wycombe District Council officers are recommending to the High Wycombe Town Committee on 3 October that it should support the closure of part of a valuable footpath in the town centre. This is despite objections from influential organisations representing walkers. The Town Committee makes a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Communities, Councillor Graham Peart. The council wants to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on the path, which would close it to public use. It claims that the path is subject to crime and anti-social behaviour. The path is a short cut between Desborough Avenue and West End Street. Last summer the council carried out a consultation exercise and there were strong objections from …read more

We call for duty on local authorities to protect parks and green spaces

We are concerned that public parks are increasingly threatened by commercial activities and that the government’s response to the House of Commons’ Communities and Local Government Select Committee report into the future of parks and green spaces does not adequately address this. The society had argued to the committee that it should recommend a statutory duty on local authorities to provide, monitor, manage and maintain parks and open spaces. When the committee declined to adopt this recommendation, the society called on the government to go further and impose such a duty. The society is concerned about the increase in the number of events being held in parks and the adverse impact these have on local communities. While government has agreed …read more

Appeal against refusal of wind turbines on mid-Wales beauty spot

We have urged the Planning Inspectorate to reject plans for seven wind-turbines in the beautiful countryside around Llandegley, five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys. The application, first submitted by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd in 2014, was refused by Powys County Council’s planning committee on Thursday 27 April. The developers have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and there is likely to be a public inquiry. The society has revealed that if the turbines are built they may be in breach of inclosure awards and therefore unlawful. The land on which it is proposed to construct at least four of the seven turbines and their associated development is part of an area inclosed in 1885 by inclosure awards for Llandegley Rhos …read more

We oppose development on Cornish common

We have objected to a proposed holiday-development on registered common land near Cardinham, about four miles north-east of Bodmin in Cornwall. The land is within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on Bodmin Moor. Other objectors are the Ramblers and Cornwall Council’s own Commons Registration Officer. Dr and Mrs Smirthwaite of Moor Cottage, Cardinham, have applied to Cornwall Council for planning permission for a holiday-let development comprising five ‘deluxe moorland retreat units with associated development and landscaping’. The development site is registered common land where the public has the right to walk. The development will have an adverse effect on the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the nearby Area of Great Landscape Value and on registered common …read more

We fight plan to extend life of wind turbines on Cumbrian commons

We have objected to plans by Zephyr Investments Ltd to extend the life of the 12 wind turbines on common land at Kirkby Moor and High Lowick, Cumbria, for a further eight years and seven months, to 31 March 2027. In 2015, South Lakeland District Council refused permission for the replacement of the existing turbines with six larger ones when the current permission expires in 2018. Now the developer wants to keep the existing ones instead and has submitted a planning application for consent to do so. We object because the turbines are a severe intrusion in a wild landscape, highly visible from many directions and in particular from the Lake District National Park and when seen against the national …read more

We welcome greenspace plan for Kendal’s New Road common

STOP PRESS 31 AUGUST 2017: We are pleased to report that on 30 August the South Lakeland District Council’s cabinet unanimously approved the scheme for the restoration of New Road Common. We are delighted that South Lakeland District Council in Cumbria proposes to reinstate Kendal’s New Road common as a green space.  For many years this has been used unlawfully as a public car-park.  The public has the right to walk and ride over the whole area under section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925. On Wednesday (30 August) the council’s cabinet will consider a recommendation from the chief executive that the common land to the south of New Road be made into public greenspace and that alternative solutions …read more

Enjoying access to the outdoors in Wales

We have a rare opportunity to influence the laws and practices for public paths and access land in Wales. The Welsh Government is consulting on access to the outdoors in chapter 4 of its document Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources. The closing date for responses is 30 September, and anyone may respond. The Open Spaces Society is preparing its response and would be pleased to hear your views. In summary, our preliminary views are as follows. We support or have no objection to: • Amend or revoke some of the items on the list of restrictions on access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) (proposal 11) • The extension of public access …read more

We fight Northampton Council’s plan to dispose of vital open space

The society has objected to Northampton Borough Council’s plan to dispose of open space at Lancaster Way in Northampton. The council has advertised its intention to sell the land and is required to consider any representations (under section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972). The council wants to use the open space on the north-west side of Lancaster Way as an access into adjoining residential development. Says Kate Ashbrook, OSS general secretary: ‘We have argued that the council does not need to sacrifice this important open space in order to provide access to the new development. There is an alternative access available to the north from Leah Bank which should be used instead. ‘The open space at Lancaster Way …read more

Comment on revised standard for gaps, gates and stiles

The revision of British Standard BS 5709, Gaps, Gates & Stiles, has now been issued for public comment and will be open for comments until Tuesday 19 September. The draft can be found on the online standards development portal here. You will need to log in to post comments so, if you are not already registered on the site, please do so here. Chris Beney, our local correspondent who is on the Working Party for BS5709, has advised that they would welcome comments before the 19 September deadline if possible.

Our general secretary to open White Cliffs Walking Festival

Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook, who is also vice-president of the Ramblers and patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network, is to open the White Cliffs Walking Festival in Kent on Thursday 24 August. The launch event is at 10am on 24 August at Walmer Green, next to the lifeboat station (postcode CT14 7DY, grid reference TR 377 514).  Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, will also be speaking. The festival runs from 24-30 August and offers 42 walks, with great variety and interest. Says Kate: ‘I am delighted to open the fourth White Cliffs Walking Festival, having launched the first one in 2014.  It is a wonderful opportunity to explore the splendid Kent countryside and the new coast …read more

We back call for truly coastal access at Lee Abbey beauty-spot

The society is backing the Ramblers, the Exmoor Society and the Exmoor Local Access Forum in calling on Natural England (NE) to create a truly coastal path on the north Devon coast at Lee Abbey, a mile and a half west of Lynton. The Exmoor National Park Authority also wants NE to re-examine the proposed route and enter into further discussion with the landowner. NE has consulted the public about the route for the England Coast Path and access land between Minehead and Combe Martin. The South West Coast Path National Trail currently goes inland on a road instead of following the coast around Duty Point. The objectors believe that the identification of the route of the England Coast Path …read more

Village green successes

We are delighted to announce the recent registration of three new town/village greens following successful campaigns by members of the society: After a two-year battle by Chris Faulkner-Gibson, on behalf of Colston Estate Community Association (CECA), to save land at Colston’s Field, Frome Valley, Bristol, it was registered as a town/village green in July 2017. In somewhat unusual circumstances following a pre-inquiry meeting in 2016, discussions were held with the landowner who, after lengthy negotiations, agreed to submit an application to register the land voluntarily. Although the area registered is smaller than that included in CECA’s original application, the association has met all its objectives and the whole field has been saved from development. Access, previously enjoyed by the local …read more

We welcome Kent County Council’s plan for country parks

We have welcomed Kent County Council’s new plan for its country parks* but have warned that the council must take care, in making them financially self-sustaining, not to allow unsuitable commercial activities there. The consultation on the Kent Country Parks strategy 2017-2021 is open until Monday 11 September. (You can respond here.) We are pleased that the council has dropped its plans earlier this year of selling its country parks and has instead put together a plan for protecting and managing them. Kent has developed a new vision for its parks: ‘to provide an inspirational and sustainable countryside experience for Kent’s residents and visitors’. This is a great starting-point for ensuring that the parks are properly protected and managed. In …read more

We help to save part of Northumberland common

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has refused to grant an application under section 19 of the Commons Act 2006, to deregister a small area of land on Allendale Common, at Spartylea in Northumberland. The land was adjacent to a dwelling at Clayhole, which had been owned by the applicant, Mr Leslie Smith, since 1985. Mr Smith said it had been wrongly registered by the commons registration authority in 1968. The society objected to the application, as did Allendale estates, the owner of the rest of the common. We said there was no evidence of a mistake made by the authority. The history of the application land was uncertain: there is no doubt that, within the …read more

Bedford Council forced to back down on path changes

Our Bedford local correspondent, Brian Cowling, has forced Bedford Borough Council to withdraw its proposals to move the routes of 13 public footpaths, in the parishes of Ravensden, Thurleigh and Wilstead, because of errors in the formal orders.  Brian objected to the proposals because he considered that they would be damaging for public enjoyment, and because the proposals were fundamentally flawed. On 4 August Bedford Borough Council withdrew the orders, some of which had been sitting on the table for four years. For the 12 proposals at Ravensden and Thurleigh, the council had used a map to the scale of 1:5,000 instead of the required 1:2,500, so the orders would have been rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in any case.  …read more

Anger at decision to allow seizure of common land at Haven Green, Ealing

The Open Spaces Society and the Friends of Haven Green are furious that the Environment Secretary has approved a retrospective application from Ealing Council to use part of Haven Green common as a cycle hub, and to deregister 188 square metres of the common.  The decision follows a four-day public inquiry held in March and April 2017, at which the inspector, Alan Beckett, acted on behalf of the environment secretary. Ealing Council had made an application under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006 to deregister the part of the common which was occupied by the cycle hub.  The council should have obtained ministerial consent for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 before building …read more

A green Brexit must include more opportunities for public access

We have welcomed the pledge from the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to deliver a green Brexit (speech, ‘The Unfrozen Moment: delivering a green Brexit’, 21 July), but have called for this to include support for greater public access to the countryside. Michael Gove speech did not mention recreation or public access in his speech but, in response to a question from Judy Ling Wong of the Black Environment Network, he said that as education secretary he had worked to make it easier for schoolchildren to visit and enjoy where our food comes from and that we can embed a love of nature in the way in which we plan and design new buildings and landscape. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general …read more

Walkers’ groups fight plan to close valuable town-centre path in High Wycombe

The Open Spaces Society and the Buckinghamshire Ramblers have opposed a plan by Wycombe District Council to close part of a valuable footpath in High Wycombe’s town centre. The council wants to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order(1) (PSPO) on the path, which would close it to public use. It claims that the path is subject to crime and anti-social behaviour. The path is a short cut between Desborough Avenue and West End Street. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary and footpath secretary of the Ramblers in Buckinghamshire: ‘This path is part of a much longer route extending between Rutland Street and Leigh Street. It is a well-used and popular short cut. ‘We do not consider that closing this path …read more

We welcome designation of Lake District as World Heritage Site

As Britain’s leading pressure-group for open spaces and common land, we welcome the announcement that the Lake District National Park will be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The society’s chairman, Graham Bathe(1), said: ‘This announcement brings the fullest recognition that the Lake District is a cultural landscape of global importance, forged by the interplay of nature and human traditions over thousands of years.  The designation is wonderful news for visitors who enjoy the beauty and wildlife of the area, and also those who farm and nurture the land.   Cumbria has nearly a third of all the common land of England(2), and is a brilliant resource for access and wildlife.’ Hugh Craddock, one of the society’s case officers, added, ‘Commoning(3) …read more

We criticise new Ordnance Survey map of greenspaces

As Britain’s leading pressure-group for open spaces, we say that today’s launch of a new ‘comprehensive map of greenspaces’(1) fails to deliver the Government’s commitment to map ‘all open-access green space’. The Ordnance Survey has announced the publication of a database of greenspaces in Great Britain. The database is offered via a mapping tool online, and freely available for download. The database responds to the commitment by the Conservative party in its 2015 manifesto to, ‘make it easier to access our beautiful landscapes, by providing free, comprehensive maps of all open-access green space.’ The database does not discriminate between public open spaces and land used exclusively for private recreation. Public and private golf courses are both shown as accessible greenspace, …read more

London Council in ‘unprecedented’ move to exploit open space

A London Council has made an ‘unprecedented’ move to make money out of holding events on a flagship open space. Lambeth Council’s planning committee on Tuesday evening (4 July) gave blanket approval to a 110-day schedule of music festivals and other events on the 35-hectare half of Clapham Common it owns. The Town and Country Planning Act allows temporary use of land for not more than 28 days without planning permission. Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook has described Lambeth’s action as ‘driving a coach and horses’ through legislation designed to protect open spaces. The Council had received numerous objections to intensified use of Clapham Common for events, which have caused serious damage to the ground and close off huge parts …read more

A new deal for public access post-Brexit

‘Agricultural funds post Brexit should pay for more and better public access.’ So declared the Open Spaces Society’s vice-president, Paul Clayden, at the society’s annual general meeting in London on Thursday 6 July. ‘The government has promised that the current level of agricultural support will be maintained until the next election. This means that there is an opportunity to change the way the payments are made to deliver better value for public money. Clearly, public money should procure public goods, such as better paths and more access to land, to be exercised responsibly. ‘The Open Spaces Society wants to achieve a new deal for public access. This should include payments for the creation of new public paths or to improve …read more

London Assembly’s vision for green spaces

We have welcomed the London Assembly’s recommendations to the Mayor to recognise, protect and improve London’s green spaces. The Assembly has published ‘Park Life: ensuring green spaces remain a hit with Londoners’, with seven recommendations for the Mayor to include in the forthcoming Environment Strategy.  These include extending and improving access to London’s green spaces, safeguarding their financial future, providing a clear vision for their management and championing green spaces. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The Open Spaces Society was born 152 years ago to protect London’s open spaces.  Our early victories included the rescue of Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common and Epping Forest.  We have campaigned ever since for the protection and promotion of London’s vital green spaces. ‘We …read more

We urge caution on proposed law changes for parks

We have condemned government proposals to legislate to prevent local authorities charging ‘Parkrun’ and ‘Junior Parkrun’. We were responding to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) consultation ‘Running free’, on preserving the free use of public parks. The society believes this issue of charging must not be taken in isolation as it will be detrimental to all those involved in the use and management of parks, and will jeopardise existing good relations between councils and park users. Worryingly, the DCLG consultation does not refer to the detailed report from the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee on public parks published in February 2017, which considered at length the challenges facing the park sector and how best …read more

We deplore power-lines on Bridgend common

We are disappointed that Welsh ministers have approved an application from Western Power Distribution to site an overhead electricity line, with 16 poles, on a South Wales common. The proposed electricity line will run for more than a mile across Mynydd Llangeinwyr common, the upland between Cwm Garw and Cwm Ogwr Fawr about six miles north of Bridgend. Because the line will affect common land, Western Power Distribution had to obtain the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We argued that the line would be an eyesore and would spoil the enjoyment of walkers and riders on this wild, open common. The inspector, Joanne Burston, imposed a condition requiring the …read more

Ancient Lewes bridleway under attack again

The ancient bridleway and popular bridleway from Lewes prison to Lewes racecourse and beyond is used by many walkers, equestrians and cyclists. It is one of the main ways Lewes residents and visitors access the South Downs. Now it is under attack again. What has happened Some years ago signs were erected, trying to stop people walking along the legal route of the bridleway, which goes to the right of the hedge in the picture (and not to the left, as the sign says). A fence was put up across the bridleway as well. People put up with the diversion, partly because they had no choice and partly because the diversion was a minor one, but it was an indication …read more

Circuit of Wales racetrack abandoned: common land saved

We are relieved that, following the refusal of £210 million in backing from the Welsh Government, the Circuit of Wales motor-race track will apparently not now be built on a square mile of common land on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The Open Spaces Society, with the Brecon Beacons Park Society, British Horse Society, Gwent Wildlife Trust and other objectors, appeared at the public inquiry in March 2015 to argue that the track should not be built on the extensive Trefil Las and Twyn Bryn-March Common near Ebbw Vale in Blaenau Gwent. They also objected to the proposal from the Heads of the Valleys Development Company to swap this common for seven inferior and scattered areas of …read more

Lambeth Council’s plan threatens Clapham Common

Lambeth Council is proposing to give itself unprecedented powers to intensify and institutionalise the commercial exploitation of a flagship open space. By giving blanket approval for music festivals and other events to be held on the 35-hectare half of Clapham Common it owns, Lambeth Council will be driving a coach and horses through legislation, designed to protect commons, which limits the number of days events can be held. The Council says that in making this application it is a ‘forerunner’.  Lambeth’s example is likely to be copied by other local authorities trying to fill holes in their budgets. The Town and Country Planning Act allows the temporary use of land for up to 28 days in total in any calendar …read more

Footpath diversion during Henley regatta

This year, during Henley regatta, the Thames Path National Trail will be diverted around the Upper Thames enclosure south of Old Blades.  The diversion is about 100 metres long and takes walkers away from the riverbank.  This is official: the footpath, Remenham 4, has a limitation on the definitive statement allowing closure during the regatta. The diversion will only be in place during the regatta, ie from Wednesday 28 June to Sunday 2 July.  This is an experiment. Further information is on the Upper Thames Rowing Club website.  

Fight against massive development in Chiltern Hills

We have objected to an application from West Waddy ADP to build up to 140 dwellings at Little Studdridge Farm, south of Stokenchurch in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The society is backing many local objectors including Stokenchurch and Ibstone Parish Councils, the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Chiltern Society. This constitutes major development in the AONB which is outlawed by the government’s National Planning Policy Framework unless there are exceptional circumstances which can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.  There are no such circumstances here. The society’s concern is that this will have an adverse effect on the public’s enjoyment of the public footpaths in the vicinity; it will be an eyesore which will …read more

Colan bridleway saved

We are delighted that Cornwall Council has rejected two planning application to station a total of 91 residential-park dwellings on land close to a public bridleway and common land, at Quintrell Downs, Colan, north Cornwall. The new residents would have been forced to drive along the bridleway to gain access to the A392 road to the north. We opposed the development because it would have generated an unacceptable level of vehicular traffic on this quiet bridleway, where walkers, riders and cyclists may enjoy quiet recreation in peace. Furthermore, the bridleway has also been registered as common land, which means that any surfacing needs the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.  …read more

We call on Assembly Members to speak up for Wales’s designated landscapes

We have written to Welsh Assembly Members to urge them to speak in the Senedd debate on the review of Wales’s designated landscapes, the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  Members are to debate the report Future Landscapes, Delivering for Wales, on Tuesday 6 June. The society is concerned that the review could undermine the foundations on which Wales’s National Parks and AONBs stand. These special areas are the jewels in Wales’s crown, of immense value for their natural beauty and the inspiration and refreshment they offer to the people of Wales and beyond.  The legislation which set them up, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, has stood the test of time. This …read more

Jubilee Field at Boddington is safe

The Friends of Jubilee Field have succeeded in getting a village meadow recorded as an Area of Community Value (ACV), and thus saved for local people to enjoy. The 3.5-acre field is at Upper Boddington, ten miles south-west of Daventry in Northamptonshire. HS2 will run along the south side of the village, putting local green space at risk of development. The parish council bought the field five years ago, but the community wanted to secure greater protection for it. Local people, led by Open Spaces Society member Debbie Turner, formed the Friends of Jubilee Field and applied to South Northamptonshire District Council to register the land as an ACV. The council has accepted this so now, if the land is …read more

We fight plan to deregister part of Leigh Common, Wimborne

We have objected to plans by Gleeson Developments Ltd to strike part of Leigh Common, east Wimborne in Dorset, from the common-land register. The developers want to build an access-road across the common to serve a new housing development on land south of Leigh Road which crosses the common. It also wants to widen the existing tarmac footway across the common to add a cycleway. In March the developers applied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, via the Planning Inspectorate, for consent for these works on the common, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The society objected to the application which would suburbanise a rustic common and create an unacceptable intrusion. Moreover, the …read more

New chance to rescue lost commons in Wales

On 5 May 2017, for the first time in 47 years, the public can claim ‘lost’ commons in Wales. The Welsh Government will bring into force legislation which ensures that any commons which failed to make it to final registration under the Commons Registration Act 1965 can now be rescued. We are delighted at this development which will enable people to record and protect their ‘lost’ commons. Once common land is on the register, it potentially gives the public the right to walk and possibly ride there, and it has additional protection from development and encroachment. The Commons Registration Act 1965 required all commons to be registered but only allowed three years for this to be done. Some commons which …read more

We keep a close eye on ancient Broxbourne route

We are keeping a close eye on the fate of an ancient route which is next to a new development at Broxbourne School in Hertfordshire. We objected to the planning application because of its adverse effect on Hoddlesdon restricted byway 40, an ancient public right of way. Despite the many objections, Broxbourne School has been granted permission from Broxbourne Borough Council to demolish the old school and build a new academy, with 150 houses on the former school site. There are 38 conditions attached to the consent, one of which is that ‘all public rights of way routes shall remain undisturbed and unobstructed at all times unless legally stopped up or diverted prior to the commencement of the development’. We …read more

Cumbrian commons face biggest threat since enclosure movement

Local and national organisations (1) are campaigning to stop the Ministry of Defence from destroying a vast area of Cumbria’s cultural history. The MoD wants to deregister three large upland commons (2) and turn them into private land. Objectors say the deregistration would be unlawful and flies in the face of undertakings made by the MoD, at a public inquiry, to keep the commons registered in perpetuity (3). MoD will privatise around 1% (4,500 hectares) of England’s total common land (4) if Cumbria County Council grants it permission (5). This would be the largest enclosure since the major enclosures of commons in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. If the land is deregistered, it will bring to an end hundreds …read more

Footpath saved in Lincolnshire quarry plans

We are pleased that Breedon Aggregates have altered their plans to extend South Witham quarry in south Lincolnshire so as to preserve the route of a much-loved public footpath. The path runs between the villages of South Witham and Thistleton, and was on the edge of the quarry extension which was proposed last year.  In the face of objections to the loss of the path, the developers have removed the eastern part of the extension from their plans and are now putting forward a smaller proposal which does not affect the footpath. Fortunately, the applicants recognised the importance of protecting this public footpath and have amended their plans.  Now the footpath will be safe, although the development will create an …read more

Powys beauty-spot wind turbines rejected

Powys County Council’s Planning Committee has rejected plans for seven wind-turbines at Llandegley, five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys.  The society was among numerous objectors to the proposal. Geoff Sinclair of Environmental Information Services, spoke on behalf of 55 local objectors at the planning meeting on Thursday (27 April). The councillors, with only one dissentient, rejected the application because it would be unacceptable in landscape and visual terms, would have a significant effect on users of nearby public paths, and would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the setting of scheduled ancient monuments in and around the prominent Llandegley Rocks. The society had also pointed out that the development could be in breach of an inclosure award.  At least …read more

Government corrects its breach of EU laws by giving extra protection to common land

We have welcomed the Government’s decision to apply environmental impact assessment (EIA)¹ to common land.² The society led the campaign to change the regulations so as to protect common land. New regulations were laid before parliament on 25 April and take effect on 16 May. In future, works on common land—typically to erect fencing—will have to be assessed against the requirements of EIA. If applicants want to carry out works beyond a threshold, set out in regulations, they will have to seek an EIA screening opinion from the government’s adviser Natural England, to decide whether a full EIA is needed. The screening opinion, and an EIA, are in addition to the requirement for consent to works on common land under …read more

Housing White Paper—a lost opportunity to create new green space

We have criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Housing White Paper* for threatening to undermine Local Green Space (LGS). The society believes that LGS should provide opportunities for public enjoyment and well-being. LGS was introduced in the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012, but government has never defined it nor prescribed a process for its designation, so it remains underused and uncomprehended. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘While LGS is an excellent concept, there has never been a clear process for its designation, nor is there guidance on how it should be managed, enforced and protected. ‘The NPPF only affords LGS the same protection as green belt, which is itself threatened, and LGS confers no rights of …read more

Public-path victory over élite private school

Local residents, backed by the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers and the Harrow Hill Trust, have defeated plans by élite Harrow School to move two public footpaths across its sports pitches, all-weather pitches and tennis courts. The objectors fought the plans at a six-day public inquiry earlier this year. The government inspector, Ms Alison Lea, has now rejected the proposals. Harrow School which spreads over 300 acres, is one of Britain’s most élite institutions. The annual fees are £37,350 (the average UK annual wage is £26,500). The school wanted to move two public footpaths, officially known as numbers 57 and 58 in the London Borough of Harrow, which have for centuries run in direct lines across the land now forming …read more

We question legality of planned wind-turbines in unique Powys beauty-spot

We have slated plans for seven wind-turbines in the quiet countryside five miles east of Llandrindod Wells, Powys. The application, first submitted by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd in 2014, comes before Powys County Council’s planning committee on Thursday 27 April. We have written a further letter to the planning committee. We say that if the turbines are built they may be in breach of an inclosure award. The land on which it is proposed to construct at least four of the seven turbines, together with the associated development, is part of an area inclosed by orders made under the Commons Act 1876, for Llandegley Rhos and Hendy Bank. The order gives the public a right of access here and decrees …read more

Development next to Welsh Newton common, Herefordshire

We have objected to a planning application which could have a damaging effect on Welsh Newton common in south Herefordshire. The plan is to convert the redundant Methodist chapel to provide additional accommodation to the owners of Primrose Cottage next door, and to erect a garage at Primrose Cottage. The properties are immediately adjacent to Welsh Newton common, and the development could mean that there will be new access-ways over the common or improvement of existing tracks. Works on common land require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, in addition to any planning permission. It could also lead to car-parking on the common, for which …read more

Our call for council candidates in Wales to pledge support for paths and spaces

We have urged our members in Wales to contact their council candidates for the local-government elections on 4 May and ask for candidates’ support for public paths, open spaces, common land and village greens. We refer to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and its seven goals.¹ The Act requires there to be a Public Services Board in every local authority area; it must produce a local Well-being Plan to deliver these goals. Public paths, open spaces and public access are highly relevant to their delivery. The local authority is represented on the Public Services Board, and therefore councillors can have a direct input. We suggest that our members put questions such as the following to their candidates. …read more

Post Brexit: we want more access and better landscapes

‘We must make sure post-Brexit agricultural payments are used to improve public access and the landscape, so that places like the South Downs National Park will benefit.’ So said our general secretary Kate Ashbrook at the rally to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the South Downs National Park, in Midhurst, West Sussex on Saturday 15 April. ‘Public money must be spent on public goods’ Kate continued, ‘and that means improving our enjoyment of the countryside, by better paths and more access land, and restoring the downs and heaths for people and wildlife. ‘The public-path network is at risk of neglect and deterioration from lack of funding, as the county councils have other priorities even in the national park.  We have …read more

We deplore further erosion of green-space protection

The government has struck a further blow to open spaces. We are dismayed that it has introduced additional measures which restrict the ability of local people to register land as a town or village green. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contains new ‘trigger events’ which prevent the registration of land as town or village green in England when a local planning authority publishes its intention to grant planning permission in principle, for instance by registering it as brownfield land. The government has already restricted the opportunity to register land which is threatened with development, in a series of attacks on green spaces. The first was in the Growth and Infrastructure Act in April 2013 which outlawed registration where a …read more

Damaging plans in Glasbury, Powys

We have objected to a planning application for 18 dwellings and associated works in the village of Glasbury on the River Wye in Powys. The society is concerned that the development would be on land which has customarily been enjoyed by the public for informal recreation and that it will also affect public paths. The development would destroy the former Glasbury School playing-fields which have long been enjoyed by local people for recreation. It is possible that residents can register the land as a village green, to secure their rights and protect the land from development. The development would also interfere with a public footpath which is on the official map, and other paths which have not yet been recorded. …read more

We fight for Trimpley Green, Kidderminster

We have called on Worcestershire County Council to reject an application to deregister part of Trimpley Green¹, common land near Kidderminster.   The application² was made to the council in July 2016, in relation to land east of the pond on the Habberley road. The application suggests that the land to be deregistered is part of the curtilage of Crofton Lodge and Crofton Park, and should be removed from the register so that it would cease to be common land. The society has submitted an objection to the application, and encouraged others who care about the integrity of their green to object too. If the land were to be deregistered it would no longer benefit from the protection given by …read more

Track-threat to Naphill Common, Bucks

We have objected to a planning application adjacent to Naphill Common in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The proposal is to erect three houses in place of one at Heatherlands on Downley Road. Naphill is about three miles north-west of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. The society is concerned that the development requires a new access track at the rear, over the common. The applicant does not mention this, nor does she seem to recognise that such a track requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006; this is in addition to planning permission. The new track will degrade this lovely common in the Chilterns …read more

Help us to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the South Downs National Park

The Hampshire Ramblers have organised an event to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the South Downs National Park, at which our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, is one of the speakers (at 3pm). It is on Saturday 15 April, starting at 11am at the South Downs Centre, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 9DH. After a short introductory talk from Margaret Paren, chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, there will be a seven-mile walk led by George and Jasper Stride (with shorter option available). The walk will take in local attractions including Stedham Mill. The walks will return to the centre at about 3pm. Kate Ashbrook will then give a short talk and there will be tea and cakes kindly provided …read more

Amenity organisations call for an immediate end to zoo parking on the Downs

National and local amenity organisations today called on Bristol City Council to put an immediate end to zoo parking on the Downs. In a joint statement, Bristol Civic Society, the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge, the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers, and the Redland and Cotham Amenity Association said: ‘The Downs are one of Bristol’s most prized assets, protected by law since the nineteenth century as a place for the people of Bristol to enjoy. The zoo was first allowed to park on the Downs in the 1960s as an emergency measure. It is shocking that parking has expanded and continued for fifty years, in clear contravention of planning policies. The zoo applied for a seventh temporary planning …read more

Unfair land-swap at Gorseinon, Swansea

Persimmon Homes wants to swap an area of Mynydd Garngoch Common at Gorseinon, north-west of Swansea. The plan is to strike 0.71 hectares of common land from the register and use it for development, replacing it with 0.81 hectares of land which we and others believe to be inferior. Persimmon says that it needs the existing common to build a roundabout, providing access to the new Garden Village. Applications to exchange common land require the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate. Objectors have until 31 March to make their representations. We have objected because we believe that Persimmon should have arranged its development to avoid the common, which is a precious asset for the community. The proposed replacement …read more

Watton Copse, Driffield, is freed from unauthorised oil-tank

An unauthorised oil-tank on Watton Copse, Driffield, has been removed. This follows refusal of planning permission by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. The Open Spaces Society, Watton Parish Council and 42 local people opposed the application. A year ago, owners of a neighbouring property in Vicarage Close, Watton, had placed an oil tank in the wood which is amenity land owned by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. The council refused to take enforcement action despite repeated requests from local people. The adjoining owners then sought consent to use the land for domestic purposes, including car-parking, and retrospectively for the oil tank. Once consent was refused, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s enforcement officer issued an enforcement notice, but …read more

We fear loss of public paths in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire County Council has consulted on its plan to categorise the county’s public paths so that some will receive little or no attention. It proposes to put paths into categories to determine the level of their maintenance, with a complicated system of assigning the priority to be given to each route. We are deeply concerned about this. It appears that those routes which are afforded low priority will be neglected and consequently less used, and they could in effect be lost even if they are not closed legally. Public footpaths and bridleways are highways in law, just like any road. The county council has a statutory duty to maintain all the highways in its area. It cannot in law …read more

Future Generations Commissioner for Wales consults on strategic plan

The office of the first Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, has launched a new website and a broad conversation/consultation on their Draft Strategic Plan and policy priorities. They are currently running a survey which will collate broad patterns of priorities raised by organisations, individuals and companies. It is anticipated that this survey will either close on 7th April or the first set of its data will be compiled into a report at that time. So, in order for your views to have the most impact, you should respond before this date. It is expected that workshops will also be held over the coming weeks. Please follow the links above if you would like to get involved.

Development next to Charlton Common, South Gloucestershire

Redrow Homes plan a major development next to Charlton Common in South Gloucestershire.  They want to build 80 dwellings on the western side of the common.  We have objected to the planning application because the development involves building an access track across the common.  We objected to a similar proposal in 2012 and, in the face of massive opposition, Redrow Homes withdrew its application shortly before a public inquiry was to be held the following year This time Redrow Homes has offered to give common land in exchange for that to be taken, but this will need to be approved by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006, in …read more

We fight electricity line across Bridgend common

Western Power Distribution intends to site an overhead electricity line, with 16 poles, on a South Wales common. The society has objected. The proposed electricity line would run for more than a mile across Mynydd Llangeinwyr common, the upland between Cwm Garw and Cwm Ogwr Fawr about six miles north of Bridgend. Because the line will affect common land, Western Power Distribution must obtain the consent of Welsh ministers, via the Planning Inspectorate, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. We believe that the line will be an eyesore and will spoil the enjoyment of walkers and riders on this wild, open common. The public has the right to walk and ride on this common, which is a lung …read more

Unfair land-swap at Therfield Heath Common, Royston

We have objected to a proposed land swap by the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens. The conservators wish to exchange 1.65 acres of common land off Sun Hill at Royston in Hertfordshire for the same area of woodland over a mile away. The proposed exchange is to enable the conservators to build eight dwellings on the area of common to be deregistered, which is on the western side of Royston. Applications to exchange common land are determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. The inspector must consider the interests of those with rights on the land to be deregistered as …read more

Eastbourne downs will not be sold

We are delighted that Eastbourne Borough Council has done a U-turn and decided not to sell 3,000 acres of its downland. The decision follows a public poll which showed that 75 per cent of respondents voted against the sale of downland, even though this may mean a cut in other services. We called on the council to halt its plans and we backed Keep Our Downs Public and other organisations which protested against the threat to the downs. The land was acquired in 1929 by Eastbourne Council to ‘secure free and open use of the Downs in perpetuity’. We are relieved that Eastbourne Council has reversed its plans to flog off its magnificent downland. The society was active in 1929 …read more

Public inquiry into diversion of Harrow School footpaths finishes

The public inquiry, which opened in January, into the diversion of two footpaths across Harrow School grounds, ended this week. It lasted for nearly six days instead of the scheduled three. The inquiry was prolonged partly because of the number of objectors to the scheme. These included the Open Spaces Society, Ramblers, Harrow Hill Trust and many local people. Harrow School wished to move public footpaths 57 and 58 which have for centuries run in a direct line across its grounds. Footpath 57 follows a north-south route between Football Lane and Pebworth Road. Unfortunately, the school built tennis courts across the path in 2003, instead of first moving the footpath. Local people wanted the path to be reopened but instead …read more

Council rejects development on public copse at Watton, Driffield

East Riding of Yorkshire’s planning committee has today unanimously rejected a planning application for retrospective consent to use Watton Copse for an oil-storage tank and domestic purposes including car-parking.  The land adjoins Vicarage Close in Watton, about five miles south of Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The council’s director of planning and economic regeneration, Alan Menzies, recommended refusal on the grounds of the ‘harmful visual impact’ of the development.  This can be seen through the trees from Beverley Road to the east and Watton lay-by to the north.  He said: ‘The oil tank is considered to be an alien feature that detracts from the character and appearance of the woodland’.  The committee agreed. The land belongs to the East …read more

We call for speed limit on lethal road across common

We have joined the call for a 30-mph speed limit on the A44 road where it crosses Bringsty Common in Herefordshire.  The present speed limit is 50 mph. The current speed-limit allows vehicles to travel far too fast along this dangerous, winding road, which risks the lives of those using the tracks which lead onto and off the road, as well as the grazing animals.  In fact, the road is a barrier to the commoners to graze stock there, with the result that the vegetation grows too high, making the problem of visibility worse. The Open Spaces Society has written to Mr Alistair Neill, chief executive of Herefordshire Council, the traffic authority, to call for the imposition of an enforced …read more

Harrogate Borough Council backs down on Stray plans

  We warmly welcome Harrogate Borough Council’s decision to drop its plans to extend and expand the use of Harrogate Stray for commercial activities.  The Stray is a historic green space at the heart of the town. The council was proposing to extend beyond 35 days the number of days on which events could be held, and the maximum area for an event beyond 3.5 hectares, the current limits in the Harrogate Stray Act 1985.  The society was among the many objectors. Following a public consultation period, the Council announced that there was no clear majority for change.  It stated that it would take time to assess the outcome of the consultation, having received many thousands of comments and suggestions. …read more

Vineyard development rejected in Kent beauty-spot

Gravesham Borough Council has refused a planning application from Mr Gurmeet Bassi for development in connection with his vineyard at Meopham in Kent.  This is in a prominent position in an area of natural beauty, close to popular public footpaths. The application included a new barn for storage, workshop, office and meeting room, hardstanding for parking and turning and a new access track. The council rejected the application because it would be conspicuous and prominent within the green belt and would ‘appear as an industrialised monolithic building’, among other reasons. Says David Thornewell, our local correspondent: ‘We welcome the borough council’s decision to refuse the application.  The development, with the changes to the public footpaths previously proposed, would have altered …read more

We press government to take urgent action to save parks

We are disappointed that the House of Commons Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, in its recent report on public parks, has rejected the proposal that a statutory duty be placed on local authorities to provide and maintain parks. The CLG Committee held an inquiry into public parks and asked three questions: why parks matter, what challenges are facing the parks sector, and how we can secure a sustainable future for parks. We recommended a statutory duty for parks and believe that the committee’s refusal to introduce one is a missed opportunity to help protect parks. Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘As a discretionary service, parks are put to the back of the funding queue, the more so now in …read more

Red card for Merton Council over blacktop on green

A member of the Open Spaces Society, Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage, has today published a report on works undertaken on the Mitcham town greens by Merton Council which accuses the council of ignoring statutory controls and illegally developing valuable open space. The works, undertaken in June 2016, involved operations along Cranmer Road and Commonside West to provide new bus stops, crossings, kerbs and pavements.  The new works encroached significantly onto Cranmer Green and Three Kings Piece*, two of Mitcham’s historic town greens. Cranmer Green and Three Kings Piece were registered in 1967 as town greens and receive the highest protection from development known to English law.  Under nineteenth-century legislation, it is a criminal offence to interfere with a …read more

Wisley interchange upgrade: Highways England must put its own house in order first

We have responded to the consultation on an upgrade to Wisley M25/A3 interchange by calling on Highways England to put its own house in order first. The society is opposed to the upgrade, but also notes that, more than 30 years after the construction of the M25 through Wisley common and Chatley Heath, the motorway remains designated as registered common land* to this day — land to which the public has a right of access on foot and on horseback. Moreover, land given in replacement for the taken common land has never been registered, so that the public cannot find out where it has a right to walk and ride instead. Our case officer, Hugh Craddock, comments: ‘It is unacceptable …read more

Our four-point plan to improve paths in Powys

We have called on Powys County Council to step up its work in maintaining and promoting the county’s public-path network. The society was responding to a consultation on the council’s revised rights-of-way improvement plan (ROWIP). Our Radnorshire representative, Peter Newman, says that much of the public-rights-of-way network in Powys is ‘dire’ and that in many communities the majority of paths are unusable, owing to wilful obstructions especially barbed-wire fences across the paths, and are unknown because they lack signposts and waymarks. Says Peter: ‘The council claims that 40 per cent of the public rights of way were open and easy to use in 2013. Our experience is that the percentage is lower than that.’ Peter argues that the current policies …read more

Closing the environmental impact assessment loophole on commons

We have called upon Defra to revoke its long-standing but unlawful exemption of works on common land from environmental impact assessment (EIA). The Government has recently concluded a consultation on implementing an amending directive (Directive 2014/52/EU) on EIA. The consultation includes proposals to amend regulations* which apply EIA to agricultural development projects with likely significant effects on the environment. At present, those regulations require agricultural development projects to be screened to decide whether their impact demands an EIA, if the project exceeds certain thresholds as to the nature, size etc—for example, a project which involves more than 2 km of new or removed fences, walls or hedges in a National Park must be screened. But the regulations exempt works on …read more

Our new representatives in Cornwall

We have appointed two new representatives in Cornwall: Jacqueline Merrick for Kerrier and Lucy Wilson for North Cornwall. As local correspondents, Jacqueline and Lucy will be the society’s eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in their areas and intervening as necessary. Among other activities, they will object to proposed changes to public paths where they are against the public interest, they will put in reports to the council about blocked paths, and they will help to research unrecorded historic routes which should be shown on Cornwall’s definitive map. Jacqueline is a mother, grandmother, semi-retired organic farmer, educational conservation field ecologist, wildlife guide, environmental campaigner, keen cyclist, rider and dog walker. She grew …read more

Development on Watton Copse

We have objected to a retrospective planning application to use Watton Copse for an oil-storage tank and for domestic purposes including car-parking. The land adjoins Vicarage Close in Watton, about five miles south of Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The land belongs to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is therefore public. There is a long tradition of community use of the copse, and the public is accustomed to roam freely here. The oil tank and concrete hardstanding have been installed without planning permission and without the consent of the council as landowner. We are supporting the local community and the parish council in opposing this development. It may sound insignificant but it has a damaging effect …read more

Friends of Coldhams Common celebrate removal of barbed wire fencing

Our member, Friends of Coldhams Common, is celebrating the removal of over 330m of barbed wire fence on the common. The fencing was a serious hazard to dogs and walkers on the common and probably dated from a 1980s City Council grant for tree planting. The barbed wire was erected to protect the trees from cows, but never removed, preventing open access to about 0.4 ha of greenspace for 30 years [a football pitch is 0.6 ha]. Open access as well as grazing on the common is a “commoner’s right” enjoyed by all Cambridge citizens. Chris Smith, Chair of Friends of Coldhams Common, explained what had happened : “My dog Lucy had serious throat injuries from cutting herself on the …read more

We celebrate good news for riders and cyclists at North Lopham, Norfolk

We are delighted that a restricted byway has been newly recorded at North Lopham in south-west Norfolk. Norfolk County Council made a definitive map modification order, following an application made by our local correspondent Ian Witham on behalf of the society, in 2015. The order was confirmed by the council, unopposed, on 1 December 2016. The route, to the east of the village, is a quiet, enclosed track, some 245 metres long (with a width varying between seven and eleven metres), known locally as Jubilee Lane, and runs between quiet roads known as Tann’s Lane and Primrose Lane. The route had been recorded on the definitive map as a footpath, but Ian’s claim was based upon historical evidence showing that …read more

Packed village hall for launch of campaign for Dorchester’s paths and open spaces

The village hall at Dorchester on Thames in Oxfordshire was packed on Tuesday evening (10 January) for the launch of the village’s campaign to preserve the footpaths and open access to the historic Dyke Hills and Day’s Lock Meadow close to the River Thames. Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, and Dorchester resident Becky Waller spoke at the 180-strong public meeting. They called on residents of Dorchester, Little Wittenham and other nearby villages to join the crusade. A new landowner, UKIP’s former treasurer Mr Andrew Reid of Bishop’s Court Farm, has erected fencing across paths which people have used for decades; he has enclosed footpaths and restricted access to popular open spaces. Local people are gathering evidence of use of green …read more

Fencing rejected on Snettisham Common

The Secretary of State for Environment has refused an application for fencing on Snettisham Common in north Norfolk. Snettisham Parish Council, which owns the common, had applied for retrospective consent for two lengths of fencing on the common, one around the top of a sandpit and the other between the car-parking area and the picnic tables. Because the fences are on common land they need the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The decision was delegated to the Planning Inspectorate. The Open Spaces Society, Natural England and four individuals objected to the application. The common is an attractive place for walkers and quiet recreation in the …read more

Saving open spaces and footpaths at Dorchester-on-Thames

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, and local correspondent for Oxfordshire, Chris Hall, will be speaking at a public meeting in Dorchester Village Hall on Tuesday 10th January as part of a local initiative to preserve footpaths and open access to the Dyke Hills and Days Lock area near Dorchester-on-Thames. Local resident, and OSS member Becky Waller, will also make a brief presentation. The meeting has been called in response to public notices posted by Oxfordshire County Council. Members of the public are invited to attend and share their own history and memories of the area, and help formulate a response to Oxfordshire County Council. If you are interested in helping to preserve footpaths and open spaces around Dorchester-on-Thames, please come …read more

Kent County Council to retain its country parks

We are delighted that Kent County Council (KCC) has decided not to sell its country parks, including Blue Bell Hill picnic site, near Burham on the North Downs. Last February the society objected in response to KCC’s public notice announcing its intention to dispose of the land at Blue Bell Hill.  The society argued that the site, on the crest of the North Downs, commands wide views over Maidstone and the Medway valley and is a popular viewing point, enjoyed by local residents. KCC has decided to retain ownership of the five small countryside sites that were being considered for disposal, and these will continue to be managed by its Country Parks team.  The five sites are Blue Bell Hill, …read more

Make 2017 the Year of the Village Green

We have called on local authorities and developers throughout England and Wales to make 2017 the Year of the Village Green, by voluntary registering their land as greens. The society urges developers to include registered village greens within their sites so that local people have a guaranteed green space for recreation which is preserved for ever.  It also encourages local authorities to register their own land so that even if it is sold, it is protected. The registration process, under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006, is simple.  The only requirements are to provide proof of ownership, obtain the consent of any leaseholder or chargeholder, complete a form and send it to the commons registration authority (county or unitary council). …read more

Happy new year

Our office is closed until 9.30am on Tuesday 3 January, but you will find lots of information on our website.  Please take a look. We wish all our website visitors a very happy christmas and new year.

We join the battle against Lake District pylons

We have joined the Friends of the Lake District and other objectors in fighting National Grid’s plan to erect gigantic pylons on the western boundary of the Lake District National Park. The pylons are part of the North West Coast Connections project.  National Grid wants to impose them along the Whicham valley and around the head of the Duddon estuary.  They are eight times the size of the existing pylons, being nearly twice as tall and seven times the volume. National Grid appears to ignore the setting of the Lake District National Park, claiming that there is no landscape impact from the new pylons on views of the national park from outside the boundary.  This is not so, they will …read more

We deplore Bristol Zoo’s selfish attitude towards the Downs

We have objected for the seventh time to Bristol Zoo’s application to use Bristol’s Downs for car-parking.  The society has objected to this use since 1997 and each time the council has granted temporary permission.  The current permission expires this month (December 2016).  Before 1997 the zoo used the Downs for parking without seeking proper permission. The zoo has applied for a three-year permission, this time to use the Downs for parking for 40 days in 2017, 35 in 2018 and 30 in 2019.  While this is a reduction in the number of days from the previous consent, the zoo proposes no action to reduce the number of its visitors coming by car, and it is not prepared to provide …read more

Our new activist for Cheshire East

We have appointed Mr Chris Meewezen as our local correspondent for Cheshire East. Chris will be the society’s eyes and ears, keeping a close watch on paths, commons, greens and open spaces in the area and intervening as necessary. Chris, who lives at Wheelock near Sandbach, has until recently been footpath secretary for the Ramblers’ Congleton Group. He has initiated a project in the county to research historic ways and apply for them to be added to the official (definitive) map so that they are safe from destruction. Says Chris: ‘I am very pleased to be appointed as local correspondent for the Open Spaces Society. The open spaces and public paths in Cheshire East are at severe risk from development …read more

Margaret Bowdery, Berkshire path-campaigner

We are sorry to report the recent death of Margaret Bowdery, a long-standing member of the society who lived in Maidenhead. Margaret was so shocked at the state of the paths around Maidenhead when she moved here in 1964 that she called a public meeting and launched the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Group. She served as footpath secretary from the group’s inception in 1970 until she retired in 2013. During that time, she did a prodigious amount of work to secure a better deal for walkers. She ran working parties to clear obstructions and erect signposts and waymarks, she reported countless path problems to the councils and she fought development which threatened paths. She was responsible for the lovely Temple footbridge …read more

Our campaign to save green spaces

We have launched our Save Our Spaces campaign, to tackle the mounting threats to public open spaces throughout England and Wales. We have written to our members to seek their support for our work in defending green spaces from the double whammy of neglect and commercial exploitation. In London, the society has helped Save Battersea Park to stop the Formula E motor race from trashing Battersea Park, Wandsworth; it is fighting Brent Council’s plans to use its parks to generate income; it has helped to stop Westminster Council from renting the Victoria Embankment Gardens to a theatre company, and it hopes to join the Friends of Finsbury Park’s case in the court of appeal to stop the Wireless Festival which, …read more

Get your greens now, we urge Cambridgeshire residents

We have urged Cambridgeshire residents to act now and save their green spaces, by registering them as town or village greens before it is too late. Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, was giving the annual Octavia Hill Memorial Lecture in Wisbech on Sunday 4 December. Said Kate: ‘Octavia Hill was one of the early activists of the Open Spaces Society, long before she founded the National Trust. Octavia believed in saving green spaces as “open-air sitting rooms” and she would most certainly be arguing today that our open spaces in towns and villages should be protected for public enjoyment. ‘Local people can protect their spaces by applying to register them as town or village greens,’ Kate explained. ‘You need to …read more

We deplore proposed sale of Eastbourne’s downland, ‘the Crown Jewels’

Eastbourne Borough Council plans to sell more than 3,000 acres of its downland. This land is so treasured by the public that we have termed it ‘the Crown Jewels’. The society has sent a message of support to Keep Our Downs Public which is organising a public walk and rally* on Saturday (3 December) to protest at the threat to the downs and to call on the council to halt its plans. Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The Open Spaces Society, which is Britain’s oldest national conservation body, deplores Eastbourne Council’s plans to flog off its magnificent downland. ‘The society was active in 1929 when the downs were acquired for the people, to be protected and treasured in perpetuity. …read more

Threat to Harrogate’s ancient Stray

Harrogate Borough Council in North Yorkshire plans to extend and expand the use of Harrogate Stray for commercial activities.  The Stray, 80 hectares of open grassland embracing the town, has existed for centuries.  Residents and visitors enjoy this beautiful green space for quiet recreation. The council is consulting the public on its proposals to weaken the provisions of the Harrogate Stray Act 1985.  The Act restricts the types of events which can take place on the Stray, the number of days to 35 a year, and the maximum area that can be enclosed at any one time to 3.5 hectares.  We were involved at the time the Act went through Parliament and reluctantly accepted its provisions. Now the council wants …read more