Commons

The Open Spaces Society is the guardian of all commons in England and Wales.
We’re here for all commons and for the people like you who want to enjoy them.

Saving our commons

The Open Spaces Society is the guardian of all commons in England and Wales.

Such is the recognition of our role, we are notified of all applications for works on, and exchanges of, common land.

One of the most famous commons we’ve ever saved is Wimbledon Common, but we’re here for all commons and for the people like you who want to enjoy them.

The public has the right to walk on all registered commons, subject to certain restrictions, and on many commons there is also a right to ride.

Does your local common need protection?

Commons are very special because the land is unique. It is historical land, which has remained largely undisturbed through the centuries, a remnant of medieval times when people relied on commons for their survival.

It is land where the owners of nearby properties have rights to graze animals, collect wood and bracken or dig peat, for example. Those rights still exist, although are not exercised as they were in the past.

There are 1.3 million acres of common land in England and Wales, registered in over 9,000 separate units covering all types of landscape and habitat. A staggering 88 per cent of all commons in England have a national or international designation – for wildlife, landscape or archaeology.

Rydal Water, Cumbria

How can you protect your local commons?

An effective way to protect a common that matters to you is to join the Open Spaces Society. Here are some examples of cases where we have given guidance to individual, group and local authority members.

As a charity, we depend on public donations to fund our vital campaigning and legal work.

As a member, you can count on the support of our expert team based at our head office in Henley-on-Thames.

Depending on where you live, you may also have a local Open Spaces Society correspondent (our name for volunteer) who may be able to help you.

Our latest posts about commons

The ethical gift

Would you like to find a present for outdoorsy friends or family with a conscience? Ethical and environmentally friendly gifts are increasingly popular and rightly so. The Open Spaces Society is a small charity that fights to conserve and promote our environment by seeking protection for paths and open spaces, so that everyone can enjoy…
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Our case officer Nicola Hodgson celebrates 20 years with Open Spaces Society

In 1999, solicitor Nicola Hodgson was instructed by Sunningwell Parish Council, in Oxfordshire, to register a piece of land as a village green – thereby preventing two new houses being built on the site which had, for decades, been popular with families and dog walkers. The case went to the House of Lords, resulting in…
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Bullies beware!

Through our 154-year history, the Open Spaces Society has developed a proud record of legal action. We fought the enclosures, and defended commoners’ rights; we have tested the law in the courts many times. We have suffered losses, but we also have landmark victories to our name. One such victory was our challenge to Dorset…
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We fight development on Hampshire common

We have objected to an application from Mr Christopher Ball to build three houses and an access road on Odiham Common in Hampshire. The land, at Potbridge, is registered common land. Any development on common land requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in addition to any planning…
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Further resources about Commons

  • Commons Act

    The Commons Act 2006 is arranged in five parts: registration, management,  works, miscellaneous, finally supplementary and general.

  • Common land training course

    Our full-day training course will provides an introduction to commons and why they are important, including relevant legislation...

  • How to take action against unlawful encroachments and works

    This fact sheet tells you how to protect your common from unlawful encroachments and works in England.

  • Vehicular access across Common Land and Town or Village Greens

    This provides guidance about vehicular access across common land and town or village greens following the repeal of section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

  • Works on common land in Wales

    A practical guide for those wishing to carry out a lawful operation on a common and those who want to defend a common against unlawful or undesirable operations in Wales.

  • A Common Purpose Guide

    Download the Foundation for Common Land guidance on how to engage with local communities for those contemplating management on common land.

  • An approach to the re-registration of commons

    Our commons re-registration officer Dr Frances Kerner shares our approach to research and application preparation

  • Registered common land and highways

    Registered common land may also be part of a public highway, and evidence that land is registered common land or part of a highway is of little or no value in demonstrating that the land is not the other.

  • A commons’ conference companion

    The Countryside and Community Research Institute of Gloucester University (CCRI) has published a Commons e-book

  • DIY guide to registering lost commons

    The Commons Act 2006 provides a new, time-limited, opportunity for you to rescue some of those commons which failed to be registered under the Commons

  • Buildings, fences and other works on common land in England

    A practical guide for those wishing to carry out a lawful operation on a common and those wanting to defend a common against unlawful or undesirable operations.

  • Commons Act 2006 Part 1 Implementation

    A pioneer implementation of Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 commenced in seven registration authorities in England on 1 October 2008.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Commons

    Frequently asked questions about commons

  • Unclaimed land and adverse possession

    Unclaimed land and adverse possession: protecting commons and other open spaces with no known owner

  • Finding common ground

    Integrating local and national interests on commons: guidance for assessing the community value of common land

  • A new opportunity to register lost commons

    The Commons Act 2006 provides a new, time-limited, opportunity for you to rescue some of those commons which failed to be registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965.

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