ARCHIVE: Commons Councils
Commons councils are democratic structures through which commoners, land owners and others with an interest in a common can work together to better manage agricultural activities, vegetation and the exercise of common rights on the land. Councils have powers to make legally binding rules on all those using a common for agricultural purposes, including for example rules to secure compliance with the conditions of an environmental stewardship agreement.
- Factsheet: Commons councils (PDF 39KB)
How will Statutory Commons Councils be established?
Councils can be set up by means of an establishment order made by the Secretary of State. Each establishment order will provide detailed arrangements specific to the individual council for which it is made. The order will include information such as the functions of a council and its rule making powers. In order to illustrate the form that such an order might take, two model establishment orders have been produced.
The administrative arrangements for commons councils (such as who is eligible to become a member and for how long they can be appointed) are provided for by a standard constitution. All commons councils will be bound by the terms in this standard constitution unless an establishment order has specifically provided otherwise. For example, the standard constitution provides that the owners of a common and any commoners are eligible to become members of a council. However an establishment order could enable others with an interest in the common to become a member. It is hoped the first council will be established later in 2010 or in 2011.
The Commons Act 2006 enables commons councils to be established to improve the management of a common only where there is a genuine local desire to do so. It has no effect on existing bodies such as voluntary commoners’ associations. Where a commons council is set up on a single or small number of commons it could either take over from or work in partnership with an existing commoners association. This would be a matter for local decision. If there is already an effective body in place there may be no local need, or desire, for a commons council.
Commons councils are not compulsory. They can only be established if there is substantial local support to do so. Government cannot impose a commons council where there is no support for setting one up.
Making a proposal for the establishment of a commons council
Natural England will soon be publishing guidance to commoners’ associations and others who are contemplating setting up a commons council. That guidance will be available shortly on Natural England’s website. Further technical guidance is available for those who have already taken the decision to seek a commons council, and wish to put together a proposal for the Secretary of State’s consideration. However, those drawing up a proposal are advised to talk to either Defra or Natural England as a first step. General enquiries should be directed either
Specific enquiries relating to particular commons should be directed the appropriate Natural England local office.
Defra consulted on proposals for implementing part 2 of the Commons Act 2006 (the legislation under which common councils can be established) in England between 8 September and 28 November 2008. The consultation sought views on Defra’s proposed arrangements for commons councils and included draft regulations and model establishment orders. In particular, views were sought on achieving an appropriate balance between standard requirements and the need for local flexibility. A summary of responses to the consultation is available, or alternatively, the consultation papers and responses are available for public viewing at the Defra Information Resource Centre until August 2010. Details on how to obtain copies.
- Consultation - summary of responses (PDF 455KB)
- Guidance on commons councils (PDF 550KB)
- Commons councils (Standard Constitution) Regulations 2010
- Explanatory Memorandum to 2010 regulations (includes annexed Impact Assessment and model establishment orders)
- Impact Assessment (PDF 406KB)
- West Barsetshire Model establishment order (single council) (PDF 154KB)
- Barset National Park Model establishment order (umbrella council) (PDF 224KB)
Page last modified: 13 July 2010
Page published: 23 October 2008