Common Land

It is commonly thought that common land is owned by the population at large. This is not the case.

Common land is land owned by a person over which another person has certain rights. Such rights are known as “rights of common”. Most common land is privately owned.

Registration of commons and towns and village greens

Common land can be registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 or the Commons Act 2006. The registers contain details of the common land, its owners and the rights of common held over the land.

The Commons Act 2006 places an obligation on “commons registration authorities” (i.e. county, district, London borough and county borough councils) to bring their registers of common land up to date. The Act also sets out criteria for the registration of town and village greens. This obligation does not, however, apply to the New Forest, Epping Forest or the Forest of Dean.

Rights of common

Rights of common may include the following:

  • the right to graze livestock (this is known as a right of “herbage”);
  • the right to take peat or turf (this is known as a right of “turbary”);
  • the right to take wood, gorse or furze (this is known as a right of “estovers”);
  • the right to take sand and gravel (this is known as a right of “marl”);
  • the right to fish (this is known as a right of “piscary”);
  • the right to allow pigs to eat acorns or beechmast (this is known as a right of “pannage” or a right of “mast”);
  • a right of public access on foot (this right was granted by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and is commonly referred to as “the right to roam”).

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For more information on:

  • Management of commons
  • Protection of common land