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Common Land FAQs

The following questions are answered here:

1 What information does the Register hold? 

2 How long does a Search take?  

3 Who do I contact and/or where do I send my Search? 

What should I send with my Search? 

How much does a Search cost? 

What should I do if I want to inspect the Registers? 

Who owns the land? 

What do I do if I want to register land as Common Land and/ or Village Green? 

What rights do the public have on common land and village greens ?

 

If you have any other questions relating to Common Land and Town or Village Green Searches please contact us using the Common Land Contact page below.

 


Question 1. What information does the Register hold?

Bedford Borough Council as the Registration Authority holds the registers for both Common Land and Town or Village Greens.

Each area of common land or town or village green is listed in the Registers under a unique 'Unit Number'. For example, Great Barford is register unit No. CL36 (the CL prefix defines the land as Common Land). Likewise, Biddenham Village Green is register unit No. VG47 (the VG prefix defines the land as Town or Village Green).

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

1. Land Section - This includes a description of the land, who registered it and when the registration became finally registered. There are also plans which show the boundaries of the land.

2. Rights Section - This includes a description of the rights of common (i.e. the right to graze 100 sheep), over which area of the common they are exercisable, the name of the person (the 'commoner') who holds those rights, and whether the rights arise by virtue of a separate land ownership by the commoner (i.e. they 'attach' to land).

Rights of common can include:

· Grazing sheep or cattle (herbage)

· Taking peat or turf (turbary)

· Taking wood, gorse or furze (estovers)

· Taking of fish (piscary)

· Eating of acorns or beechmast by pigs (pannage)

The people who are able to exercise the rights listed above are generally known as 'commoners'. Common land and rights are a very ancient institution - even older than Parliament itself. They are part of the fabric of life in England and Wales and have their origins in the manorial system.

3. Ownership Section - This includes details of owners of common land. However, entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive.

The registers also include a map showing the extent of the registered area.

 

Question 2. How long does a Search take?

The Borough Council has set its own targets of replying to Common Land and Town or Village Green Searches within 3 and 5 working days of receiving the Search.

It aims to answer 90% of Commons Searches within 3 working days and 98% of Commons Searches within 5 days.

The Borough Council's 5 working day target has been set to allow Searches which require further investigation to be completed.

 

Question 3. Who do I contact and/or where do I send my Search? 

Bedford Borough Council as the Registration Authority is responsible for maintaining and carrying out searches of the Common Land and Town or Village Green Registers.
Normally, a Commons Search is carried out when a property is being bought or sold and usually via your solicitor and Search certificates will reveal whether land is registered as common or village green, if there are rights of common, and whether or not ownership is registered. Search forms are available from law stationers.

Commons Enquiry letters can be sent either through the Document Exchange system, (on DX 117105 Bedford 4) or through the normal post. The registers are available for public inspection on Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays) between the hours of 9.30 am and 4.00 pm.

Appointments to view the registers can be made by telephoning the Borough Council on 01234 276391

Copies of the registers can be provided on payment of a fee. 

Question 4. What should I send with my Search?  

When a Local Land Charge Search is submitted that includes question 22 relating to Common Land and Town or Village Greens

· the official CON29O form should be submitted,

· the correct fee (please check)

· two Ordnance Survey maps or plans should be included with the property/ land concerned clearly outlined. It is important to include these to ensure that the answers to the Search cover the whole area in question.


Question 5. How much does a Search cost?  

Please  contact Bedford Borough Council regarding charges for a Commons Search Enquiry.

The registers are available for public inspection on Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays) between the hours of 9.30 am and 4.00 pm – and members of the public can inspect free of charge.

Appointments to view the registers can be made by telephoning the Borough Council on 01234 276391

Copies of the registers can be provided on payment of a fee.

 

Question 6. What should I do if I want to inspect the Registers?

The registers are available for public inspection on Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays) between the hours of 9.30 am and 4.00 pm – and members of the public can inspect free of charge.

Appointments to view the registers can be made by telephoning the Borough Council on 01234 276391

Copies of the registers can be provided on payment of a fee.

Question 7. Who owns the land?

The Common Land Town or Village Green Register has 3 sections:

· The Land Section

· The Rights Section

· The Ownership Section


The Ownership Section - includes details of owners of common land. However, entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive. We amend the registers when we are notified by the Land Registry of changes in ownership of land.

Search certificates will reveal whether land is registered as common or village green, if there are rights of common, and whether or not ownership is registered.

Unless there are entries listed under the Ownership Section it is very rare that the Local Authority can help or answer this query unless the land in question is owned by the local authority.

Question 8. What do I do if I want to register land as Common Land and/or Village Green?

a. Registering New 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 or country dancing etc.
Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 changes 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 of right' (i.e. without permission, force or secrecy) for at least 20 years.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now confirmed that Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006, together with new procedural regulations, will be brought into force on an interim basis from 6 April 2007 . More comprehensive procedural changes to both arrangements for the registration of both greens and common land will be made when the rest of Part 1 of the 2006 Act is brought into force at a later date.

Section 15 will allow 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.



The new more user-friendly Application Form 44 (Application for the registration of land as a Town or Village Green), with guidance notes to help complete it and other useful documents, can be found on Defra's website (opens in new window).  

The Open Spaces Society (opens in new window) is planning to issue an update of its very useful publication entitled "Getting Greens Registered" on 6 April 2007. For further information their contact details are as follows:

25A Bell Street,
Henley-on-Thames,
Oxon RG9 2BA

Tel no 01491 573535
Website: The Open Spaces Society (opens in new window)

 

b. Voluntary Registration

The Commons Act 2006 will also allow for the first time the owner of any land to register it voluntarily as a town or village green, without having to show 20 years qualifying use. The new Application Form 44 will need to be completed and submitted to the Orders and Commons Registration Officer – the contact details are shown in 8e below.

c. Public Parks

For your information it is unlikely that public parks can be registered as town or village greens, because they are unable to satisfy the "as of right" test, as their use is pursuant to a licence from the landowner.

d. Registering Common Land

New common land can be created under the Commons Act 2006, the creation of new rights of common, and where common land is exchanged for other land. Where land was wrongly omitted from the registers under the Commons Registration Act 1965 it may, if certain conditions are fulfilled, be registered at a later date under Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006.

e. How to register land as a Town or Village Green

Please return the completed Application Form 44 to:

Julie Mitchell
Borough Hall
Cauldwell Street,
Bedford MK42 9AP

or telephone 01234 276391 for further assistance.

Alternatively you can send an email to:
 Julie.Mitchell@bedford.gov.uk

Question 9. What rights do the public have on common land and village greens ?


Registered common land is land owned by one person over which another person is entitled to exercise rights of common (such as grazing animals or cutting bracken for livestock bedding), and these rights are generally exercisable in common with others.

Since 31 October 2005 under the provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 the public has had the “right to roam” on registered common land. This right is for recreation on foot, which includes activities like walking, sightseeing, bird watching, picnicking, climbing and running.

See the Open Access (opens in new window) website for further information and details about restrictions or exclusions under the 2000 Act.

Registered town or village greens do not carry any general rights for the public at large. They will often carry rights for inhabitants of the particular locality to engage in lawful games and pastimes, but it is not possible to be specific as to who is or isn't an inhabitant of the locality and what sports or pastimes may be played. Unlike registered common land, registered town or village greens are not included in the “right to roam”.

 

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