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An introduction to common land and village greens

Information about the registers of common land and town and village greens as well as the Commons Act 2006.

We are the commons registration authority for North Yorkshire and therefore the county council maintains the Registers of Common Land and Town and Village Greens.

The registers, which were created as a consequence of the Commons Registration Act 1965 and resultant legislation, contain a variety of information about registered land. The information includes a written description of the land, the recording of any rights of common exercisable over the land and details of ownership. There are also maps which show the extent of the registered land.

Although we keep the Registers of Common Land and Town and Village Greens, there had until now been no statutory requirement to keep the registers up to date or for landowners and commoners to inform us as the registration authority of events affecting the registers. As a consequence of this, it is highly unlikely the registers accurately reflect the current extent of all registered land and rights - this will be addressed by the implementation of the Commons Act 2006 (see below).

Common land

Common land is land owned by an individual, or individuals, over which certain other people have traditional rights. These rights largely comprise the grazing of sheep and cattle but they can also include the cutting of peat and turf, the taking of stones and wood, shooting rights and, in the case of bodies of water, fishing rights. The people who are able to exercise these rights are known as "commoners".

Village greens

Town and village greens originate in customary law where long standing recreational use of land came to be recognised. Town and village greens are areas of land where inhabitants of a locality or neighbourhood within a locality have indulged in lawful sports and pastimes over a period of time. The lawful sports and pastimes may include organised or informal games, such as football or cricket, picnic, fetes, dog walking or other similar activities. A town or village green can be under private ownership but the majority of town or village greens are usually owned or maintained by town and parish councils.

Unlike common land there is no general right of public access over town or village greens, which is instead reserved for use by the local inhabitants of a neighbourhood or locality. There is no distinction in law between a town green and a village green.

The Commons Act 2006

The Commons Act 2006 came into force on 15 December 2014 and replaces the Commons Registration Act 1965. The initial aim of the act is to update and correct the Registers of Common Land and Town and Village Greens.

From 15 December 2014 there is a "transitional" period of four years whereby interested parties, under Schedule 3 of the Commons Act 2006, can make an application to record an event that has happened on registered land but has not been documented in the registers since they were first created. Applications received during the first three years of the "transitional" period will be dealt with free of charge. Applications received after 14 December 2017 will incur a charge.

Under the Commons Act 2006 applications that can be made include applications to:

  • Correct a mistake in the registers whether it has been made by the registration authority or by the original applicant;
  • Create and extinguish rights of common;
  • Register land as common land or town or village green; and
  • Deregister land wrongly registered as common land or town or village green.

Contact details

For more information and queries about common land and village greens please contact:

North Yorkshire County Council
Business and Environmental Services Directorate
Commons Registration
County Hall
North Yorkshire

Telephone: 01609 780780

This page was last updated on 14 June 2016