There are rules on how you can use common land and town and village greens.

Common land

Common land is owned, eg by a local council, privately or by the National Trust.

You usually have the right to roam on it. This means you can use it for certain activities like walking and climbing.

Some common land has different rights, so you may be able to use it for other activities, eg horse-riding.

You can’t:

  • camp on common land without the owner’s permission
  • light a fire or have a barbecue
  • hold a festival or other event without permission
  • drive across it without permission unless you have the right to access your property

Town and village greens

You can use town and village greens for sports and recreation, eg playing football or walking your dog. Some also have ‘rights of common’ over them - like grazing livestock.

The right to roam doesn’t apply.

Many greens are owned and maintained by local parish or community councils. Some are privately owned.

Common land and village greens near you

Find out where your local common land or village green is by contacting your local council. It keeps the ‘Register of Common Land and Village Greens’ for your area.

Each entry in the register includes:

  • a description of the land
  • who has rights to use it, and what those rights are
  • who owns it, or who owned it when it was first registered

Have your say on changes to common land

Planned changes to common land will be advertised in local newspapers and put on signs around the land. If you want to comment on the application, write to:

The Commons Team
The Planning Inspectorate
3F Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol
BS1 6PN

If you own common land

The management of common land must take into account the interests of both the owner and the ‘commoners’ (people who have rights over the land but don’t own it). This can be done:

  • by the landowner
  • informally, by landowners and those with rights on the land working together, eg to keep the land maintained and not over- or under-grazed
  • formally, by setting up a statutory commons council - the stakeholders sit on the council and make decisions by voting; the decisions of the council are legally binding

Natural England has guidance on managing common land.

Cross compliance and common land

As a landowner, if you claim agricultural payments under the Single Payment Scheme, you must comply with cross compliance rules across all of your agricultural land - not just the land that you claim payments for.

The responsibility for cross compliance with common land is shared with the other stakeholders. If the other stakeholders are actively using the land, setting up a commons council can help with meeting cross compliance rules.