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Commons and village greens

What is common land?

Common land is land, usually in private ownership, over which certain people have certain rights and on which certain restrictions have been placed. The main features of common land are that it is generally open, unfenced and unimproved grassland and located mainly in the upland areas of England and Wales.

View the breakdown of common land and village green ownership in Herefordshire.

Common land, where ownership is unclaimed, may be protected by the local authority. Find information about unclaimed common land.

There are nearly 200 commons in Herefordshire. Some are privately owned, some have no known owner and some the council own. They vary in size from a few square yards to hundreds of acres.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gives the public a right of access on foot to certain areas of access land which includes registered common land. View Defra guidance on original registration procedures.

Conclusive maps for all areas showing the land (including commons) to which the public have access, including the open access rights which are now in operation in all regions subject to any short or long term restrictions that may apply, are available on the Natural England website.

Who owns common land?

There are approximately 600,000 hectares of common land in England and Wales and approximately 5000 hectares in Herefordshire, broken down as follows:

Ownership of common land and village greens
OwnershipNumber registeredHectares
Total registered commons 198 2023
Herefordshire County Council owned commons 12  301 
Section 45 commons 60  168
Part section 45/ part owned commons 13  101
1899 Commons Act  31  332 
Privately owned commons 113  
Village greens 42  
Herefordshire County Council owned village greens 7  

View a list of all common land and village greens

What are common rights?

There are six types of common rights. These have been granted to specific people known as commoners, during the registration periods under the 1965 Commons Act. Most rights are attached to land but a few are in “gross” and not attached to property. Further information can be found here.

Rights of common can include:

  • Common of Pasture - a right to graze livestock (cattle, sheep & ponies)
  • Common in pannage - a right to graze pigs on acorns & beech mast at certain times of the year
  • Common of estovers - a right to take underwood, loppings, bracken & furze
  • Common of turbary - a right to cut turf (peat) for fuel
  • Common of piscary - a right to take fish from lakes or streams
  • Common in the soil - a right to take sand, gravel, stone or minerals

The granting of these rights has its origins in our history when the Medieval Lord of the manor had to accept that one or more of these rights existed. Not every common will have all six rights granted and some may not have any at all.

The county council, as commons registration authority, maintains the register of common land where common rights have been registered. Common rights may be registered elsewhere at Land Registry (HMLR) or contained in unregistered title deeds, however they have to appear in the commons register to be definitive.

The people who are able to exercise the rights listed above are generally known as 'commoners'.

What is a town or village green?

Town or village greens share a similar history to common land, however, they are defined separately for the purposes of the Commons Registration Act 1965.

Village greens are usually areas of land within defined settlements or geographical areas which local people can use for leisure activities. While land forming town or village greens may be privately owned, many greens are owned and maintained by local parish or community councils. Some greens may also have rights of common (for example, grazing of livestock) over them.

What is the Commons Act 2006?

Schedule 3 of the Commons Act 2006 and Part 4 of the Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2008 made provision for updating the commons registers during a transitional period to capture events since 1970 which have not yet been registered. This is to ensure that the registers are accurate and reliable records and form a basis for improved management.

The events which may be registered during the transitional period are:

  • The creations, surrender, variation, apportionment, transfer or extinguishments of a right of common
  • Legal events affecting registered land or registered rights of common, such as a compulsory purchase order or the giving of any land in exchange
  • Ratification of registration mistakes under the Commons Registration Act 1965.

The transitional period began in Herefordshire on 1 October 2008 and ended on 30 September 2010.

There is no need to re-register rights of a common already held in the Commons Register.

How do I view application notices under the 2006 Commons Act?

How do I view decision notices under the 2006 Commons Act?

What is a section 45 common?

If no-one came forward to say they were the owners of common land at the time of registration, the registers may by silent and in those cases, the section on ownership will simply refer to the land being under the protection of section 9 of the Commons Registration Act 1965, now known as section 45 under the Commons Act 2006

The local authority has the powers to protect common land but no duty to do so. The local authority is unlikely to take action but there are powers under the Commons Act 2006 for any person to apply to a county court to require unauthorised works to be removed.

View Herefordshire Councils decision on dealing with section 45 commons.

 

Where can I find the registers?

The registers of common land and town or village greens are held in the commons registration section, at Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane.

The registers are available for public inspection on Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays) between the hours of 10am and 4pm by prior appointment with the commons registration section.

We can also provide certified copies of the written register and definitive map for a reasonable charge. For further information contact:

What information is in the registers?

Each area of common land or town or village green is listed in the registers under a unique unit number.

Each unit number in the register is divided into three sections showing details of:

  • Land – includes a description of the land, when it was registered and who by. This section also includes the definitive map of common land and village greens.
  • Rights – includes a description of the rights of common, over which area of the common they are exercisable and which property they are attached to. Some town or village greens also have rights of common registered over them. Entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive.
  • Ownership – includes details of owners of common land. However, entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive.

How do I register land as a town or village green?

You can register new land as a town or village green under Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006. You will need to apply to us as Commons Registration Authority at:

You will need to prove that the land has been used 'as of right' for a period of 20 years. 'As of right' means that you have used the land without let or hindrance or force.

Please download the relevant form by clicking here

To help with completing these forms, please click here

How do I register or change details about a common?

To register or change details about a common, please download the relevant form by clicking here

To help with completing these forms, please click here.

If you have any queries about which form to complete, please contact us at:

How much does it cost to register common rights?

How do I find out if land is registered common, town or village green?

By making a search through our Local Land Charges, this enables you to have a written answer whether any land is registered as a common, town or village green. There is a fee for making a search.

Contact Local Land Charges at:

  • Telephone: 01432 260220/0252/0997
  • Fax: 01432 260114
  • Email: landcharges@herefordshire.gov.uk
  • Post: PO Box 211, Hereford HR1 9FL
  • DX: 135297, Hereford 3
  • Address: Town Hall, St Owen Street, Hereford HR1 2PJ

Does the Land Registry know the areas which are registered commons, towns or village greens?

The Land Registry does not necessarily know the areas which are registered commons unless it has been drawn to their attention by the owner. 

How are mistakes rectified under the Commons Registration Act 1965?

Herefordshire Council was selected by Defra to be a pilot authority for the introduction of the 2006 Commons Act. Part 1 of the Act relates to registrations and will involve modernisation and rectification of the common land and village green registers and plans.

Can work be undertaken on common land?

Under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, you need the consent of the Planning Inspectorate to carry out any restricted works on land registered as common land.

Restricted works are any that prevent or impede access to or over the land. They include fencing, buildings, structures, ditches, trenches, embankments and other works, where the effect of those works is to prevent or impede access. They also include, in every case, new solid surfaces, such as for a new car park or access road.

View application forms and relevant guidance from the Planning Inspectorate on the Planning Portal

How do I contact the commons registration section?

For enquiries about a specific common or to make an appointment to view the commons registers, please contact the commons registration team at:

The commons registration section has administrative functions only. We can inform you as to procedures but we cannot give you legal advice.

If you require legal advice/interpretation of the law, you must seek your own independent advice.

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