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Call to register common land to secure it for use of public

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 29, 2012

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Campaigners have called on the Government to fully enact laws to update England's registers of common land in order to save it for the public.

In 2006 the Commons Act was passed to address a number of land issues including bringing registers up to standard.

Two years later Devon and Cornwall were picked as two of seven "pioneer" areas across England where the first part of the act covering updating registers was implemented.

The seven areas including Blackburn with Darwen, Hereford, Hertfordshire, Kent and Lancashire represent roughly 18% of the registered common land in England.

Ministers recently announced the deferral of further implementation until at least 2016.

The newly-formed Common Land Coalition (CLC), which includes 16 diverse organisations representing the countryside, wants Environment Minister Richard Beynon to act now.

According to the CLC common land is suffering because there is no definitive, up-to-date record of the land and rights.

In an open letter to The Times at the weekend CLC chiefs urged Whitehall to roll-out the legislation to the rest of the country.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, a member organisation of the CLC, said the scheme in Devon and Cornwall was working well.

She said: "It's been chugging along quite nicely. In Cornwall we've had a couple of commons added to the register. And although there have been no additions so far in Devon corrections have been made to information."

Ms Ashbrook said she was keen for registers to operate in a similar fashion to those in Devon and Cornwall so lost commons can be reclaimed, thereby securing the public's rights to walk and ride there.

She said: "We believe there are many commons which were wrongly excluded from registration.

"Part 1 of the Commons Act enables us to win them back.

"We are dismayed that parliament should pass such important and valuable legislation and then fail to implement it.

"So together with organisations representing graziers, the commons registration authorities, landscape and access interests, we have called on the minister to reconsider his decision of deferral, and to implement part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 without further delay."

Other members of the CLC include the Foundation for Common Land, Pastoral Alliance, Campaign for National Parks, Ramblers' Association and the British Horse Society.

The Act was passed under the former Labour government whose intention was to begin national implementation in England from October 2010 but they were swept from power in May of that year.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs declined to comment after a request from the WMN.

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