Guidance

Commons registration authorities: maintain registers of commons and greens

How to find out which sort of commons registrations authority you are and how you must maintain your registers.

The content on this page is in beta and may be updated frequently. This guide is part of a collection which will replace guidance for commons registration authorities and the Planning Inspectorate.

Common land is owned by 1 or more people and used by other people, who are called commoners. Commoners have rights to use the land to graze their sheep, for example. Town and village greens are open spaces that local people can use for sports and pastimes.

The registers record the location and area of common land and town and village greens. They also record the rights of common. They aren’t always accurate and therefore need to be corrected.

Commons registration authorities

The following are the commons registration authorities for common land and town and village greens in England:

  • county councils
  • unitary councils
  • district councils where there’s no unitary council
  • London borough councils

The following aren’t commons registration authorities, so they don’t have registers:

  • the Court of Common Council of the City of London
  • the Council of the Isles of Scilly

Pioneer registration authorities

You’re a pioneer registration authority if you’re 1 of the following councils:

2014 registration authorities

You’re a 2014 registration authority if you’re 1 of the following councils:

1965 registration authorities

All other registration authorities are called 1965 commons registration authorities.

Maintain registers

If you’re a pioneer or a 2014 authority, you must keep your commons register and your register of towns and village greens up to date under Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 by:

If you’re a 1965 commons registration authority, you can only accept applications to correct the following types of mistake:

  • mistakes in the register made by a registration authority - read Section 19(2)(a)
  • buildings wrongly registered as common land or a town or village green
  • other land wrongly registered as common land or a town or village green

You can continue to process applications made under the Commons Registration Act 1965.

Land in 2 or more authorities’ areas

If you share a common or a green with another registration authority, you can agree between you that only 1 of you’ll be responsible for the registration of that land. This is called a straddling agreement. If you had one in place before 1 April 1974, it expired on that date, so you’ll need to renew it.

Agency agreements

You can agree with another registration authority to transfer some or all of your registration duties.

Outstanding registrations

You must check your registers for any registrations that are still outstanding under the Commons Registration Act 1965, section 6 and section 7. You must write ‘final’ or ‘void’ on any entries that remain to be recorded as such on the register as the duty under the 1965 Act has been saved.

Exempted land

You can’t record land in the New Forest, Epping Forest or the Forest of Dean in the registers. The following commons were exempted under the Commons Registration Act 1965, but you can register them under the 2006 Act:

  • Amersham: Austenwood Common, Coleshill Common, Gold Hill Common, Hyde Heath, Ley Hill Common
  • Brentwood: Shenfield Common
  • Bromley: West Wickham Common, Spring Park
  • Coventry: Greyfriars Green, Hearsall Common, Keresley Common, Stoke Commons, Top Green, Whitley Common
  • Croydon: Coulsdon Common, Farthing Down Common, Kenley Common, Riddlesdown Common
  • Egham: Thorpe Green
  • Esher: Brook Hill Common, Downside Common, Leigh Hill Common, Little Heath Common, Old Common, Oxshott Heath, Upper and Lower Tilt Commons
  • Hampshire: Otterbourne Hill Common
  • Harrogate: The Stray
  • Merton: Mitcham Common
  • Portland: Victoria Gardens
  • Slough: Cippenham Village Green Common
  • Southampton: West End Road Recreation Ground
  • Watford: Cassiobridge Common
  • Whitley Bay: The Links Common
  • York: Micklegate Stray

Email commons.villagegreens@defra.gsi.gov.uk for advice about land that you can’t accept applications for.

Registers of common land and town and village greens

You must have separate registers for common land and town and village greens. Each register must have:

  • a general part
  • individual register units for each registration of land and the rights usable over it
  • a register map
  • supplemental maps which show the land that rights are attached to, such as a farm

The general part

You must include arrangements that apply to the whole register in the general part such as agency agreements, straddling agreements and exempted land (read Form 1).

The individual register units

Each register unit has 2 parts:

  • the land section, which records the land that the right can be used on
  • the rights section, which records the details of the right of common

In the land section, record the common or green, with its map reference (read Form 2).

The ownership section shows who claimed to own the common or green when it was registered. It may not be accurate unless:

  • a Commons Commissioner found that the land had no owner and so ordered it to be registered as council owned (vested)
  • a Commons Commissioner decided that a council owned the land

You can only change an entry in the ownership section:

  • to correct a mistake made by the commons registration authority in the original registration - follow model entry 23
  • to delete an entry if the Land Registry informs you (with a B52 form) that the land’s ownership has been recorded in the register of title - follow model entry 24

The ownership section is being phased out and will eventually be abolished as it is being replaced by the Land Registry’s register of title.

The register map

You can use 1 or more map sheets for the register map. You can show 1 or several register units on 1 sheet. You must number the sheets and bind them if you have several sheets. You can add overlays, insets or new maps or sheets to the register, but you must keep all existing maps.

You must use Ordnance Survey sheets at a scale of at least 1:10,560 for moorland. For all other land you must use Ordnance Survey sheets at a scale of at least 1:2,500.

You can also add or delete notes about things that affect public access, such as a common or green’s management or regulation. If you’re a 1965 authority, you can add notes with details of private and charitable rights and interests in the land. You can’t make such notes if you’re a pioneer or a 2014 registration authority.

In the rights section, record the rights of common that can be used over the land in the land section (read Form 3). Rights of commons are usually attached to land (not the common), called the dominant tenement - this could be a farm. The owners or occupiers of the dominant tenement can use the right of common (eg grazing their sheep on the common).

You must record the address of the dominant tenement in column 5 of the register, including a reference to a supplemental map. If the dominant tenement has a house on it, you can record it by its postal address and Ordnance Survey grid reference. Add a supplemental map to a new or corrected entry. You can use the applicant’s map if it’s good enough, or create your own if it isn’t.

The existing references for dominant tenements may be in the form of parcel numbers on an Ordnance Survey map. These are valid, but you must correct them when you change any part of an entry.

If the right of common is held in gross (held by a person instead of attached to land), record the name and address of the owner in column 5.

Supplemental maps

Supplemental maps show the dominant tenement. If you change an existing entry made under the 1965 Act that doesn’t currently have a supplemental map, you must add one. You can use an applicant’s map or prepare your own. The scale must be at least 1:10,560. You can show 1 or more dominant tenements on a supplemental map. Each dominant tenement must be clearly cross-referenced to the relevant entry in the rights section.

You must keep the supplemental maps together as part of the register, rather than keeping them in the application files.

Add information to the registers

You can add information to an entry (such as a post code) to make it easier to understand.

Allow access to the registers

You must allow members of the public to inspect and make copies of:

  • the commons register
  • the register of town and village greens
  • any records that relate to an application to change the registers

You must also provide official copies of the registers or records held in connection with the registers, such as a copy of an original application. You must certify them as true copies.

You can’t charge for inspections but you can charge for official copies. The charge must be the same as or less than it costs you.

Deregistration

This guidance doesn’t cover deregistration of common land or town and village greens under section 16 and 17 of the 2006 Act, which only the Planning Inspectorate deals with.

Further information

This guidance relates to Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 and The Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014.

The Association of Commons Registration Authorities supports commons registration officers and staff whose work includes common land and town and village greens.

Published 17 November 2015
Last updated 18 November 2015 + show all updates
  1. Added link to guidance in opening para.
  2. First published.