Common Land Coalition seeks implementation of the 2006 Commons Act

A group on 16 diverse countryside bodies, including the Federation of Cumbria Commoners,  concerned about the future of English Common Land have jointly written to Minister, Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and have had a further letter published in The Times.   The Common Land Coalition claims that commons constitute some of England’s finest assets.  They point out that there are 7,000 commons in England, covering nearly 400,000ha.  Found in all areas from remote uplands to our largest cities, no-one is ever far from a common.  Not only are commons important parts of rural economies, but they provide enormous benefits to the public.  A remarkable 88% of all English common land is designated because it is nationally or internationally important for wildlife, landscape, and archaeology, and virtually all is available for public access.  There is no category of farmland which is so universally important for its environmental benefits.

Yet commons are suffering because there is no definitive and up-to-date record of common land and rights.  This is preventing the proper management of such land to conserve its environmental qualities.   The solution is simple – implementation of the Commons Act.  This was passed with cross-party and cross-sectoral support in 2006, specifically to address issues such as these.   Yet six years after royal assent, it has still to be implemented, and a recent announcement has deferred this further until at least 2016. As a consequence, the Common Land Coalition consider that some of England’s finest countryside is failing to meet its potential for the nation.

The Members of the Common Land Coalition are:

Julia Aglionby, Chairman, Foundation for Common Land
Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary, Open Spaces Society
John Thorley OBE FRAgS, Director Pastoral Alliance
Helen Jackson, Chief Executive Campaign for National Parks
Helen Gilbert, Chairman Association of Commons Registration Authorities
Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive Ramblers’ Association
Mark Weston, Director British Horse Society
Robin Milton, Chairman NFU Uplands Forum
Jan Darrall, Policy Officer, Friends of the Lake District
Howard Davies, CEO National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
John Waldon, South West Uplands Federation
Phil Stocker, CEO National Sheep Association
Jeremy Moody, Secretary Central Association of Agricultural Valuers
Ian Mercer, Chairman Dartmoor Commoners’ Council
Dave Smith, Chairman Federation of Cumbrian Commoners
Dave Turnbull, CEO British Mountaineering Council

To read the letters to Mr Benyon and to the Times click below