- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
- Part of:
- Common land: guidance for commons registration authorities and applicants and Land management
- 17 November 2015
- Last updated:
- 18 November 2015, see all updates
- Applies to:
How to deal with applications and proposals, amend your registers of common land and town and village greens, and set fees.
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.
Individual members of the public, or groups such as an association or a limited company, can make applications to change the registers of common land and of town and village greens. Make sure you treat any application by a group as having been made by that group, rather than the person who signed the form.
A proposal is an application that a commons registration authority makes to itself.
Both applications and proposals can be made to:
- record new events (including rights, commons or town or village greens)
- record a historic event
- correct a mistake in the register
As a commons registration authority, you can make decisions about applications and proposals through full council or a committee of the council, or you can delegate decisions to an appropriate officer.
You can send letters by email as long as applicants have agreed to receive them in that way. Anyone can communicate with you by email without asking you first. Applications can’t be submitted by email.
How to process applications
Make sure the application has been made on the correct form, and the fee, information and any maps requested by the form have been included and are at the correct scale. Make sure that the evidence applicants provide is convincing enough to be considered further. Also make sure the application form has been signed by each of the applicants.
You can ask applicants for any missing items. If they don’t provide them, return the application and the fee. You don’t have to process an application that’s incomplete.
Forms CA1, CA2, CA6, CA7 and CA13 have two parts, Parts A and B. Check the applicant has either filled in Part A or provided a deed of grant (a legal document that transfers a property or right from one person to another).
Once the application is complete, give it a unique reference number and stamp it with the date you received it or on which it was complete.
You should set fees to match your costs for processing applications. You must publish your fees on your website. The first time you publish your fees they take effect immediately. But if you change your fees, you must give 14 days’ notice before they take effect.
There are some types of application that you can’t charge for.
You should tell applicants that they will have to pay extra fees to the Planning Inspectorate if you refer their application and it’s one of the types of application that you can charge for.
Check ownership of the land
You may need to make sure that an application is made or agreed to by the owner(s) of that land. In such cases, you’ll need to be satisfied that you have enough evidence of ownership as requested in each application. You can’t accept an application from a tenant or a lessee (except applications to register declarations to rights of common).
When you’re required to check the ownership of the land in an application, you should check that there’s enough evidence.
If the land hasn’t been registered with the Land Registry, the applicant must supply a copy of conveyances showing the land and the buyer going back at least 15 years.
Acknowledge receipt of applications
Write to applicants to acknowledge their application and send them:
- a unique reference number for the application
- a copy of the notice published on your website
- the postal and email addresses for queries
Ask them for any other information or documents you need to process the application and tell them the date they must provide them by.
As soon as you’re satisfied that the application is complete, publish a notice about it on your website. This must include:
- the names of the applicant and the commons registration authority
- the name and location of the land
- full details of the application
- a full explanation of the effects of the application
- the address where members of the public can look at the application and any other relevant documents
- the postal and email addresses for comments and objections, with the information that these will not be treated as confidential
- the deadline for comments and objections, which must be at least 42 days later than the date of the notice
- the section of the Commons Act 2006 that’s relevant to the application
You must keep a list of people and organisations that ask to be told about any applications or proposals relating to commons or town and village greens. Email a copy of the notice to all of them.
You must also email a copy of the notice to all those listed in Schedule 7 of the regulations under the relevant type of application.
If the application is to add or remove land from the registers, you must put up a site notice for at least 42 days. Place the notice at the entrance to the land or an obvious place on the boundary. You don’t have to replace the site notice if someone removes or damages it.
For applications to add or remove land, you must also inform every other local authority within the area, including:
- parish councils
- the chair of parish meetings
- National Park authorities
You don’t have to contact the landowner if it’s not possible to do so.
Land or rights that belong to the Church of England
If you get an application that relates to land or rights that belong to the church, you must communicate with the rector, vicar or priest in charge of that particular piece of land. But if the post is empty, you must write to the area’s Diocesan Board of Finance instead.
Comments and objections
Anyone can make comments and objections about an application in writing, within the deadline. They must sign it and state:
- their name and address
- their interest in the application (eg as the landowner or a local resident)
- the reason for their comments and objections
Send copies of any comments and objections that you receive by the deadline to the applicant. Give them at least 21 days to reply in writing. If there are 2 or more applicants, check all of them have signed the reply.
As a commons registration authority you can also submit comments and objections, usually if you have an interest in the application.
You can conduct a site visit of land affected by an application. But if you appoint an inspector to hold a public inquiry, they must inspect the land unless the landowner or occupant refuses to allow them onto the land. If so, it may be possible to inspect the land from a road or public path next to the land.
The inspector must ask the applicant whether they want to be present at the site visit or send a representative instead. The inspector must give them reasonable notice of the time and date of the site visit. But they don’t need to postpone the site visit if the applicant or their representative doesn’t turn up.
You can visit unclaimed land without permission. Unclaimed land is both of the following:
- it doesn’t have an entry in the Land Registry
- you haven’t been able to find the owner in any other way
Decide whether to refer the application to the Planning Inspectorate
You must refer the following types of application and proposal to the Planning Inspectorate if you have an interest in the outcome to the extent that if you made the decision it would be seen as being biased (eg if your authority owns the land and wants to develop it). You can’t refer any other types of applications even if you have an interest in the outcome. You must also refer these types of application and proposal to the Planning Inspectorate if someone with a proprietary legal interest in the land (such as an owner or tenant) has objected to it:
- correct a mistake by adding or removing land from the register, or correct a mistake in the quantity of rights
- register waste land of the manor not registered as common land - waste land of the manor is land that is open, uncultivated and unoccupied, and that did or does belong to a manor
- reregister a town or village green wrongly registered as common land
- remove buildings wrongly registered as common land or as a town or village green
- remove other land wrongly registered as common land or as a town or village green
If the application or proposal relates to part of a right of common and is accompanied by an application for an apportionment (new event or historic event), you must also refer the apportionment. The primary application must be registered before the apportionment can be decided. If the primary application fails then so must the apportionment. See advice on what types of amendment are primary applications.
Process an application or proposal that you decide to refer to the Planning Inspectorate in the usual way. After the period has passed for comments and objections and any views on those from the applicant, you should send the following to the Planning Inspectorate:
- the application or proposal
- all supporting documents
- other relevant documents that you have, such as extracts from the registers
- all comments and objections that you’ve received
Send everything to the following address:
Common Land Casework
The Planning Inspectorate
Rm3/25B Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
The Planning Inspectorate will ask you to complete a referral letter, to confirm details such as the reason for referral. If the Planning Inspectorate thinks that the criteria for referral don’t apply, it will return the application or proposal to you and you will need to continue processing the application or proposal.
Before making a decision, the Planning Inspectorate may decide to hold any of the following, which you can ask to be part of:
- a site visit
- a hearing, when applicants can speak to the decision-maker
- an inquiry
Once the Planning Inspectorate has made a decision, it will:
- tell you the result
- publish the decision on its website
- send you details of everyone who made comments and objections
- inform the applicant and anyone who made comments or objections about the decision
- publish the decision and the reasons for it on your website
Hearings and inquiries
If you’re thinking of refusing an application, you must give the applicant an opportunity to make their case to you before finalising your decision. You must also allow anyone else to make their case to you if their civil rights would be affected by your decision. They can do this by talking to you in person or on the phone. This applies whether you grant the application or refuse it.
You can appoint an independent inspector (such as a barrister) to hold a public inquiry. If you decide to hold an inquiry into applications and proposals (eg if they are likely to generate controversy) then you must appoint an inspector to oversee the inquiry.
If an application or proposal has been referred to the Planning Inspectorate, it can decide to hold a formal hearing or a public inquiry and must appoint an inspector to lead the hearing or public inquiry.
You should publish the date and time of hearings and inquiries on your website at least 6 weeks in advance. Inform the applicant and anyone who made a comment or objection (including anyone the registration authority invited to do so). The inspector can issue directions for public inquiries or hold a pre-inquiry meeting.
Requests to withdraw or make changes to applications
Applicants don’t have an automatic right to withdraw applications. If an applicant asks to do so, you must decide whether or not it’s reasonable. You should usually allow the withdrawal of applications that need to be made by a specific person (eg the landowner) if they don’t want to proceed with it. But be cautious about allowing an application made in the public interest to be withdrawn.
Treat requests to make changes to applications in the same way. But if a suggested change to an application would be so significant that you would have to publish a new notice, you can refuse the change.
Make your decision
Once you have all the information you need and all parties have had a fair chance to make their views known, you must make a decision based on the contents of the application or proposal and any extra information provided or found through comments and objections and site visits, for example.
It’s up to the applicant to prove that the application satisfies all of the criteria. If any evidence is missing, or nobody has opposed an application, you must not assume that the applicant has met all the criteria. You must refuse an application if the applicant cannot supply all the required evidence.
You must also take the following into account:
- whether the application would have an effect on the public interest
- your duty to conserve biodiversity
- your duty to conserve and enhance sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) and areas of outstanding natural beauty
- the Habitats Directive
- your duty to prioritise the needs of a National Park
If the application relates to a SSSI, you must tell Natural England. Give it 28 days to reply before you decide to give your consent to any activities that will or could damage the site’s features of special interest.
You must also consider any views provided by Natural England for applications to create or vary new grazing rights.
You can grant an application in part if, for example, the criteria is met for part (but not all) of the land affected by the application or proposal.
Amend your register
Once you or the Planning Inspectorate have granted an application or a proposal, you must correct the register using the model entries as a guide. If you make an amendment that isn’t a deletion, you must transfer the information on the whole sheet to a new form.
You should follow the standard entries as closely as possible for:
- new or replaced register maps
- supplemental maps
- rights shown on supplemental maps
You must stamp any new register form or map sheet. The stamp must have the following information:
- COMMONS ACT 2006
- the name of your registration authority
- COMMONS REGISTRATION AUTHORITY
- the date
If the Secretary of State agrees to an application for deregistration and exchange of land, the Planning Inspectorate will send you an order to amend the register.
You don’t have to accept repeated applications unless there’s new evidence or material to consider.
Applicants can make a repeat application for a case that was refused under the 1965 Act, if the criteria under the 2006 Act would lead to a different outcome. In some cases the criteria under the 2006 Act are different to those under the 1965 Act.
Publish your decision
Tell the applicant and anyone who made comments or objections the result of the application and the reason for your decision. Publish this information on your website.
Pioneer and 2014 authorities can make proposals for the following types of amendment:
- to correct the register under Section 19
- to bring the register up to date to register historic events during the transitional period
But you should only make a proposal:
- if it’s in the public interest - you can’t make applications on behalf of the public
- if there would be an indirect impact on the public interest
- if you or your predecessors made a mistaken entry, and no one has a personal interest in correcting the register or the landowner can’t be found
- if you have a direct interest, eg if you own the land
You must prepare a statement about why you’re making the proposal and the justification for it. You must provide the same information and evidence you would expect from an applicant.
You must publicise your proposal by preparing a notice with the same contents required for applications. Send the notice to:
- owners of land connected with the proposal (if known)
- anyone who has registered a declaration to use a registered right of common over the land
- any owners of rights in gross (rights attached to people instead of land) unless there are so many that it would be impractical
- commons councils responsible for the land or other bodies representing the interests of rights holders over the land
- other local authorities in your area
- anyone who asks to receive email notices of applications and proposals
- anyone else you think would have an interest in the proposal
If the proposal is to add or remove land from the registers, you must put up a site notice for at least 42 days. Put the notice at the entrance to the land or an obvious place on the boundary. You don’t have to replace the site notice if someone removes or damages it.
You may need to refer your proposal to the Planning Inspectorate if your decision could be seen as being biased.
Applicants can’t appeal against your decision to grant or reject an application. But they can challenge it in the High Court through a judicial review. You can also challenge a decision with a judicial review. The High Court can order a register to be amended if an entry or any information in it was added in a fraudulent way (read section 19(7) of the 2006 Act).
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
Updated: 18 November 2015
- Added link to original guidance.
- First published.
Related guides: Commons registration authorities: correct mistakes Commons registration authorities: maintain registers of commons and greens Commons registration authorities: process new event applications Commons registration authorities: record historic events Commons registers: how to apply to make changes