organisations and individuals all stand to benefit from guidance
launched by environment minister Michael Meacher on the
management of common land.
about 8% of the total agricultural land in England and Wales and is a
vital component of many upland farms.
The Guide proposes practical solutions to problems and draws on
the experience of those involved in the day-to-day management of
The proposals include:
guidance on how to set up a Commoners' Association;
advice on drawing up a Management Plan;
where to find information on Commons Registers;
advice on tackling over and under grazing; and
procedures for fencing and other works on common land.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question Mr Meacher said:
'The Guide provides practical advice and solutions to problems
experienced in the management of common land and highlights examples
of good practice. It is designed for all involved in governing and
managing common land. We are therefore distributing copies of the
Guide widely to interested organisations and individuals.'
1. Common land is different from other property because the ownership
of the land has traditionally been subject to 'rights of common' held
by other individuals over the same area. These 'rights of common'
entitle persons possessing such rights ('commoners') to use a range
of the products and characteristics of land that belong to another
person. The wide range of activities covered under the term 'rights
of common' - such as the grazing of stock, collecting of timber, or
taking of fish - have their origin in local custom.
2. Common land covers more than 550,000 hectares of land (3% of
England and 9% of Wales) in 8,675 separate commons. It ranges from
large urban commons, such as Hampstead Heath, to the remote hills of
Cumbria. Because it has not been managed intensively, it is often of
more than agricultural value and many commons are important for their
ecological, archaeological, landscape, sporting or other recreational
3. The 1995 White Paper 'Rural England' announced that the government
would commission a management guide to identify and publicise
practice in managing common land.
4. The research project was undertaken by the Countryside and
Community Research Unit of the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of
Higher Education. Its primary aim was to establish and disseminate
good practice in the management of common land, taking account of
local arrangements and customs, and reflecting current legislation.
The Guide is designed to assist all those who use and manage common
land - landowners, commoners, local authorities, national and local
countryside organisations and individuals - providing practical
solutions to problems.
5. The project has been overseen by a steering group, consisting of
the department, MAFF (including its Farming and Rural Conservation
Agency) and Welsh Office, and an advisory group. The advisory group
was made up of the steering group members and representatives from
English Nature, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Council
for Wales, English Heritage, the Open Spaces Society, the National
Trust, the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners'
Association, the Association of National Parks, the Duchy of
Cornwall, the Moorland Association, the Wildlife Trusts and Edward
Harris (a legal expert on common land).
6. The Guide has been distributed to county councils, unitary
authorities, district councils, borough councils, metropolitan
councils and most parish councils in England, local authorities and
Commoners' Associations in Wales, as well as to a number of
non-government organisations and individuals. Copies of the Guide are
available free of charge from the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions, Room 818, Tollgate House, Houlton Street,
Bristol, BS2 9DJ (Telephone: 0117-9878883; Fax: 0117-9878969).