Overview for people who want to apply to make a change to the registers of common land or the registers of town and village greens.
The registers of common land and of town and village greens record information about where the land is, with details of the rights of common over the land. You can apply to make changes to the registers to add new information, or change existing information so as to:
- record a new event, which is something that has happened since 1 October 2008 in an original registration authority area or 15 December 2014 in Cumbria and North Yorkshire
- record a historic event, which is something that happened before 1 October 2008 in a pioneer registration authority area or 15 December 2014 in Cumbria and North Yorkshire
- correct a mistake or anomaly in the register – this is called a rectification application
The commons registers are held by commons registration authorities. These are the top-tier local authority for an area (such as a county council or a metropolitan borough).
You can only apply to register new events and historic events if the land or right of common over it is in the area of a pioneer registration authority or a 2014 registration authority. The pioneer registration authorities are:
- Blackburn with Darwen Council
- Cornwall Council
- Devon County Council (but not including Plymouth or Torbay)
- Herefordshire Council
- Hertfordshire County Council
- Kent County Council (but not including Medway)
- Lancashire County Council (but not including Blackpool)
The 2014 authorities are:
If you want to apply to amend the registers but the land or right of common is not in one of the areas above, there are only 5 types of rectification application that you can make. You can apply to correct a mistake made by the registration authority or to remove land that was wrongly registered as common land or as a town or village green.
How to apply
‘Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006’ is the name of the legislation that allows you to apply to change the commons registers. The different sections of Part 1 relate to different types of application that can be made to change the registers. For example, you will see guidance that says “you can apply to create a new right of common under Section 6”. But the laws for the application process are set out in The Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014 (referred to as the regulations).
Your application must be on the correct form, because each form relates to a different type of change to the registers. If it’s not on the correct form the registration authority can’t process your application.
You can apply as an individual, or as an organisation or a business, such as a limited company or a partnership. If you’re applying on behalf of a body, you must make that clear.
Land in 2 authorities’ areas
Some areas of registered land straddle the boundary between 2 registration authorities’ areas. They may have a ‘straddling agreement’, which means that only one of them is the registration authority for that land. If your application relates to land that straddles a boundary, check which registration authority you need to apply to.
Registration authorities charge fees for most types of application. The fees must be published on their website. There are certain types of application that the registration authority can’t charge for. Ask your registration authority or check the list in Schedule 5 of the regulations.
The Planning Inspectorate can also charge fees. These are shown in Schedule 6 of the regulations.
Inspection and copies of the commons registers
Each ‘register unit’ (typically a common or a green) has its own number, and 2 sections:
- the land section, which describes the registered piece of land and refers to the register map, which is also part of the register
- the rights section, which sets out rights of common (the formal rights to use the land) registered over that land
There may also be a third section, the ownership section, which gives details of the claimed owner of the land (but it could be wrong or out of date). The ownership section is only of historic value as the ownership of land is now recorded by the Land Registry.
You can ask to see the commons registers and associated information. There’s no charge for this.
You can make copies of the registers for free. However, if you ask the registration authority to give you copies of the registers or other records, it may charge you a fee. You should say whether you want an ‘official copy’ (certified by the registration authority as a true copy of the register), as a higher fee may be charged for official copies.
Documents you need to send with your application
You must include a copy of every document that is asked for on the application form. It’s better not to send original documents. Instead send copies, preferably certified, for example by a solicitor, to say that they have been checked against the original. Enclose a note to say where the originals can be inspected.
You don’t need to send copies of any document that was issued by the registration authority or that you know that it has in its possession.
The application form will tell you whether you must provide a map. If you do, your map must be at least of the following scales (you can use a larger-scale map showing the land in more detail if you want to):
- at least 1:2,500 to show any land that you want to add to or remove from the register, unless the land is moorland or mostly moorland, in which case, you may use a map at a scale of at least 1:10,560
- at least 1:10,560 for any other land Use an up-to-date Ordnance Survey map. Suppliers of digital historical Ordnance Survey maps can be found on the internet.
You need to provide evidence of ownership of the land for most types of application, but the form will explain if this is necessary. For example, you can only make some types of application if you are the landowner or if you have the owner’s consent. Ownership means owning the freehold.
If the land ownership is registered with the Land Registry, contact them for an office copy of the individual register for your registered title.
If the land is not registered with the Land Registry, you may need to supply a good root of title. This means copies of conveyances (transfers of title) of the land, showing the buyer and the land they bought, going back at least 15 years.
Stamp Duty Land Tax
If your application to amend the register will affect a right of common, you will have to pay stamp duty land tax (SDLT) if the value of the transaction is greater than £150,000. (This amount is called the ‘zero-rated threshold’.) You’ll need to complete an SDLT return and pay the tax within 30 days of the date of the transaction.
You won’t normally have to pay SDLT if you’re applying to register a historic event that took place before 1 October 2008.
Find out more about SDLT or contact the Stamp Office at:
Birmingham Stamp Office
HM Revenue & Customs
9th floor, City Centre House
30 Union Street
Telephone: 08456 030 135
You should contact your registration authority for advice. Part of its role is to decide your application so it must remain impartial, which means you are responsible both for deciding which form is appropriate for the type of amendment you want to make and for completing the form.
Consider taking independent expert advice, such as from a solicitor with experience in this area of law, if you need detailed advice.
What happens to your application
If your application is complete, the next steps will typically include:
- the registration authority will advertise your application, asking for representations; these have to be made within 42 days of the last notice
- it may ask you for more information
- it will send you copies of the representations it receives to you for comment, and if necessary your own comments will be copied to others for their comments
- it may refer your application to the Planning Inspectorate
- the registration authority or the Planning inspectorate may ask you to present your case at a hearing or a public inquiry
- the registration authority will write to you with the decision
- if your application is granted, the registration authority will change the register
Referral to the Planning Inspectorate
The registration authority must refer your application to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) if the registration authority has an interest in your application and people are unlikely to be confident in its impartiality.
There are other types of application that must be referred to PINS, but only if someone with a legal interest your application has objected to it. These are rectification applications:
- to correct a mistake in the register by adding or removing land from the registers or to correct the number of rights, in other words, the number of grazing animals (a Section 19 application)
- to add land to, or remove wrongly registered land from, the registers (a Schedule 2 application under paragraphs 4 to 9)
The Planning Inspectorate may ask you for more evidence or information.
Hearings and public inquiries
The registration authority or PINS must give you a hearing if it is thinking of refusing your application. This is to talk about the key aspects of your application and to answer any possible points of conflict. It must also give a hearing to anyone else whose civil rights would be affected by the outcome of your application.
The registration authority and the Planning Inspectorate may decide to hold a public inquiry into your application. This is more likely if there is considerable opposition to your application.
You may be asked to attend a site visit. If there is to be public inquiry, the inspector (who oversees the inquiry) must organise a site visit unless the landowner refuses entry. Even without a public inquiry into your application, the registration authority and PINS can decide to hold a site visit.
Withdrawing or changing your application
You can tell the registration authority that you want to withdraw or change your application, but they don’t have to agree to it. However, they may agree, for example, if it would be fair to let you, or to correct something that is clearly wrong (such as a map showing a house that doesn’t exist). They may refuse if the withdrawal or change would affect the interests of others.
Once your application has been decided (whether by the registration authority or PINS), the registration authority must:
- tell you and everyone who made representations
- publish the decision and the reasons for it on its website
- amend the register as soon as possible
Challenging a decision
You can’t appeal against the registration authority or the Planning Inspectorate’s decision. You can ask the High Court to review the actions of a registration authority or the Planning Inspectorate, but court action can be very expensive, and you should get legal advice before you do. You can also ask the High Court to order the register to be corrected if an entry, or any information in an entry, has been secured by fraud.
You can find further information about registering land from:
Nearly all the important cases decided by the courts since 2000 (and some before that date) are published on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute website.
A list of the relevant cases can be found on the Association of Commons Registration Authorities website. You can also check the published law reports (at major reference libraries, through your local library or at the law libraries of some universities).
Copies of the decisions of the Commons Commissioner for England and Wales are held by Defra in both bound and electronic form. Contact the Commons and Access Implementation Team about the bound volumes.
Defra publishes a copy of its casework database, containing details of most casework decisions made in relation to common land and greens by Defra.
For enquiries and comments relating to this guidance:
Commons and Access Implementation Team
1D Nobel House
17 Smith Square LONDON
For enquiries relating to applications that have been referred to the Planning Inspectorate:
Common Land Casework Team
The Planning Inspectorate
Room 4/05, Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Telephone: 0117 372 6210