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The Commons Act 2006

The Commons Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 19 July 2006 and will repeal the 1965 Act at a later date. This new Act will make the following provisions:

1. The statutory registers maintained by the Council will need to be updated and all future events affecting the registers will have to be notified (failing which, the event will be void in law); provision is also made to hold the registers in electronic form.

2. Creation of power to establish Commons Councils aimed at improving/enforcing the management of agricultural activities and general husbandry of common land.

3. New powers to prevent carrying out of works on some commons, intervention to deal with unauthorised agricultural activities and other causes of damage such as overgrazing.

4. Preservation of local authority powers to protect unclaimed common land and greens from unlawful interference.

5. Clarification of application process for the registration of new town or village greens. For the first time land owners will be able to voluntarily register greens, without showing 20 years use.

6. Proposed changes to the conveyancing process for searching the registers. Due to take effect in 2007 with the introduction of Home Information Packs.

Most of the provisions in the 2006 Act will come into force on dates to be appointed in commencement orders. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) expect to consult in early 2007 on proposals for implementation of the new responsibilities for commons registration authorities, which will include proposals for the initial commencement in pilot areas, followed by a roll-out on a region by region basis. Meanwhile, the 1965 Act will remain in force.

Commencement Order No 1 – with effect from 1st October 2006

The provisions include:
1. Section 45 (re-enacted power of local authorities over unclaimed common land and greens)
2. Section 51 (repeal of power to apply for statutory easements for vehicular access across common land etc.)
3. Partial repeal of section 13(a) of Commons Registration Act 1965 (power to apply to voluntarily de-register common land and town or village greens)
4. Paragraph 6 Schedule 4 (enables any person to enforce against unlawful works constructed after 28 June 2005)

Applications to register town or village greens

Town and Village Greens were established under customary law as areas of land where local people indulged in lawful sports and pastimes.  These might include organised or ad-hoc games, picnics, fetes, maypole and country dancing and similar activities.

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 changed the legal definition of a town or village green and sets out the qualifying circumstances in which land may be newly registered.  Essentially anyone can apply to have land registered as a green if it has been used by local people for recreation 'as a right' (i.e. without permission, force or secrecy) for at least 20 years.

Section 15 also allows a specific period of grace, if recreational use 'as of right' is ended by the landowner, during which an application for registration as a green may be made.

An application will need to show that the land in question has been used:

  • For a period of at least twenty years
  • For the purposes of lawful sports and pastimes
  • 'As of Right' (i.e. without force, secrecy or permission)
  • By the inhabitants of a locality, or a neighbourhood within a locality

Alternatively, a landowner may voluntarily register land as a new village green, in which case it is not necessary to demonstrate a set period of use.

A copy of the  Application Form 44 and guidance notes are attached.  The Association of Commons Registration Authorities has created an Evidence Questionnaire. The use of this form is not compulsory, but can be used in support of an application to register a new Village Green.

Other useful documents can be found on Defra's website and the Open Spaces Society has a very useful publication entitled 'Getting Greens Registered'. 

For further information please contact Julie Mitchell in Highways Development Control Section at julie.mitchell@bedford.gov.uk

Current Applications:

Land at Colmworth

  • Reference: VGA2
  • Applicant: Colmworth Parish Council
  • Received: 8 August 2011
  • Status: Voluntary Application, Colmworth Country Park accepted and registered as Unit VG68 on 11 June 2012.
  • Plan of Unit VG68

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