ARCHIVE: How is Common Land managed?
On this page:
- Commons Councils
- Unauthorised agricultural activities
- Management Projects
- Environmental Stewardship and Common Land
- Byelaw making powers
- Commons Acts 1876 and 1899
See also guidance documents on managing Common Land
Part 2 of the Commons Act 2006 enables the creation of statutory commons councils. Commons councils provide a new mechanism for effective agricultural management at a local level. Commoners, land owners and others with an interest in the common will be able to work together through commons councils to better manage agricultural activities, vegetation and the exercise of common rights on the land.
- Learn more about Statutory Commons Councils
Section 46 of the Commons Act 2006 enables Natural England to stop unauthorised agricultural activities on registered common land or certain greens, which are detrimental either to the commoners’ or landowners’ interests, or to the public interest. This power will allow Natural England to deal with problems where other persons who could have taken action (such as the owner or the commoners) have not done so. The power may be used, for example, where one or more persons has been grazing animals on the common without any right to do so, the owner or the commoners have failed to take action, and the public interest in the common is threatened (for example, by over-grazing leading to deterioration of nature conservation, or because animals unlawfully present on the common present a threat to lawful recreational activity).
The power to take action under section 46 has been transferred from the Secretary of State to Natural England by an agreement made under section 78 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Defra has published guidance (PDF 66KB) to Natural England on the appropriate use of its powers under section 46.
Severance often means that common rights end up in the hands of farmers or graziers who do not live near the common, have no knowledge of the common itself, and may disrupt the livestock management practices there. This makes it difficult to manage agriculture on commons sustainably, causes problems for local rights holders grazing on the common, and reduces the economic efficiency of grazing common land. The retrospective ban will ensure local control of grazing on the commons.
The Commons Act prohibits the severance of common rights, preventing commoners from selling, leasing or letting their rights away from the property to which rights are attached. This prohibition had effect from 28 June 2005.
- Guidance note on severance (PDF 76 KB) - revised August 2006
- The Dartmoor Commons (Authorised Severance) Order 2008
- Explanatory Memorandum to the Dartmoor Commons (Authorised Severance) Order 2008 (PDF)
The provisions enable the Secretary of State (in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales) to make regulations prescribing exceptions to the prohibition on severance. An order allowing the short term leasing or letting of rights (up to two years) in England has been made, and has effect from 28 June 2005.
- The Commons (Severance of Rights) (England) Order 2006 (SI 2006/2145)
- explanatory memorandum to the Order
There are many active management projects being carried out on common land across the country. These are exploring new and often innovative approaches to managing both upland and lowland commons. For further information on projects please see:
Environmental Stewardship is an agri-environment scheme that provides funding to farmers and other land managers in England who deliver effective environmental management on their land, including common land.
The Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme is particularly suited to applications from those engaged in agricultural activity on common land, while Uplands Entry Level Stewardship replaces the Hill Farm Allowance from 2010 onwards.
A Supplement to the ELS handbook on the admission into Uplands ELS of common land and shared grazing in the Severely Disadvantaged Area deals with the steps which must be taken, from registering a commoners’ association as a customer with the Rural Payments Agency, through mapping the common on the Rural Land Register, to applying for an Uplands ELS agreement, and provides advice on the internal agreement which will be required between the commoners and other parties to underpin the Uplands ELS agreement.
For further information on Environmental Stewardship, including the Supplement to the ELS handbook, see:
Local authorities have powers under various Acts of Parliament to make byelaws on common land. Byelaws are local laws that create criminal offences. Before they can come into effect, byelaws must be confirmed by the Secretary. Defra deals with applications from local authorities and parish and town councils for confirmation of byelaws on common land for which the Secretary of State is the confirming authority. Defra has guidance notes and model byelaws to assist local authorities in this process. These are available on the byelaw powers for local authorities page.
Some 36 commons in England and Wales are regulated under the Commons Act 1876. The Act enabled commons to be regulated by means of an Order made on application to the Inclosure Commissioners, and confirmed by Parliament by means of a Provisional Order Confirmation Act.
The Commons Act 1899 provides an easier process for enabling district councils to manage commons, particularly where their use for exercise and recreation is the prime consideration and where the owner and commoners do not require a direct voice in the management. Further information can be found at:
Page last modified: 26 February 2010
Page published: 23 October 2008