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‘We have less than five years in which to claim our commons. The Open Spaces Society is leading the campaign to ensure that all common land is registered and available for the public to enjoy’ so declared our vice-president, Paul Clayden, at the society’s annual general meeting in London on Thursday (7 July).
Throughout its 151 years, the Open Spaces Society has led the campaign to protect and record commons.
‘Common land is recorded on registers but, following registration in the late 1960s, much was thrown out with little regard for the public interest in commons,’ Paul explained. ‘The government has allowed the registers to be reopened so that people can claim much of the land which was struck out at that time. This provision is in part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 and applies in nine English areas: Blackburn with Darwen, Cornwall, Devon, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Kent and Lancashire (until December 2020) and Cumbria and North Yorkshire (until March 2027).
‘The society advises its members on how to claim land as common. This may involve research in record offices to understand whether the land was once waste of the manor, as the Commons Act spells out the circumstances in which land can be registered.
‘Once it has been registered, the land is protected from development and enclosure, and the public has the right to walk and, in some cases, to ride there. So there is immense public benefit in recording the land as common.
‘The society is launching a project to enable potentially-eligible land to be researched and recorded. Time is short but the potential gains are considerable.
‘Furthermore, the Commons Act 2006 allows some land to be removed from the register on the grounds that it was wrongly recorded. Unfairly and unlike the provisions for adding land, this applies throughout England. We advise our members on how to oppose applications which are disingenuous. Anyone can ask their commons registration authority (county or unitary council) to notify them, free of charge, of applications to remove land from the register and we have recommended to our members that they ask for this.
‘Unfortunately, the Welsh Government has not yet implemented part 1 of the Commons Act, and we have called on Assembly Members to remedy this,’ said Paul.