Western Morning News
Rescue deals for common land
More of the countryside can be enjoyed thanks to the Open Spaces Society
MORE than 50 areas of common land in the Westcountry could be ‘rescued’ thanks to action from a leading British pressure group.
The Open Spaces Society has made 78 applications to rescue lost commons in England’s seven ‘pioneer areas’ – and 51 of these are in the pioneer areas of Cornwall and Devon.
The applications are to register the spaces as common land. If successful, they will give the public the right to walk, and in some cases to ride, on the land and will protect it from encroachment and development. The applications will be determined by the commons registration authorities (county or unitary councils) based on the evidence which the society has provided.
These commons are ones which, for a variety of reasons, failed to be registered during the three-year period allowed by the Commons Registration Act 1965. Part One of the Commons Act 2006 re-opened the door to their registration provided they remain ‘open, uncultivated and unoccupied’ at the present time.
The Open Spaces Society – Britain’s oldest national conservation body – has already succeeded in registering a number of areas in Cornwall where the applications have been determined, such as Maenporth Beach; Cosgarne, Viscar and Carrine Commons, and land at Carn Brae.
Further applications in Cornwall include parts of the Lizard Peninsula and the north coast. In Devon, application sites include parts of Dartmoor and the north coast.
The society’s painstaking work involved checking historical records and carrying out site visits, before preparing and submitting the application. Its work was severely hampered by the closure of the record offices during lockdown, and the difficulty in making site visits owing to the pandemic. As a result, the society has worked against the clock to submit all its applications before the registration period’s deadline.
Frances Kerner, the society’s reregistration officer who led the campaign, said: “We are relieved to have submitted, before the deadline, all the applications we considered worthy, and we look forward to them being processed and determined. It has been a fascinating and worthwhile exercise. Now we shall turn our attention to Cumbria and North Yorkshire, where we have until March 15, 2027, to submit our applications, and to Wales, where the deadline is May 4, 2032.”
General secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “This has been a race against time but, if we are successful, many commons which were wrongly excluded 50 years ago will be restored to the registers for people to enjoy.
“The society led the work to register commons under the Commons Registration Act 1965 and has taken the lead again in researching and championing the lost commons.
“We are grateful to Frances, Landman Consultants, Tomas Hill, who worked for us in Cornwall, and the many volunteers who made site visits for us. We are also indebted to the late Jack Candy, whose generous legacy to the society funded this vital work.”
‘Many commons which were wrongly excluded 50 years ago will be restored to the registers for people to enjoy’