500 signatures reached
To: Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Protect common land in England and Wales - Block the legal loopholes
The Commons Act 2006 needs to be strengthened to protect our common land from exploitation and development. The law intended to protect common land is currently being ignored because officials have no power to enforce it.
Why is this important?
The British love common land. Although all common land is owned by someone, in the hearts of the British people it will forever belong to them. People are free to visit, free to roam, and free to sit and stare. These are very precious freedoms, even more so because common land is a natural, unspoiled, environment that everyone can enjoy and where threatened wildlife and plants can survive and thrive.
But land owners, cash-strapped councils, commercial organisations and even Wildlife Trusts, are now trying to exploit our common land for its financial value, to the detriment of its natural state, the threatened species that inhabit it and, of course, our free access to it.
The Commons Act 2006, which applies in England and Wales, requires anyone constructing buildings, ditches, embankments, or hard surfaces, or putting structures or fences, on common land, to make an application to the Planning Inspectorate for consent. There are certain exceptions, but these relate only to traditional countryside uses or the direct conservation of the common. The public, and environmental bodies, are consulted on every application.
However, if anyone chooses NOT to make an application for consent, there is nothing that the Planning Inspectorate, or the Secretary of State for the Environment, can do about it. Officials need to be able to demand applications for consent for works on common land, stop works that do not have consent, levy sanctions for non-compliance, and much more.
The provisions of the Commons Act 2006 MUST be reinforced by the Secretary of State for the Environment, to protect and preserve all our common land in England and Wales, and to leave it in a fit and natural state for future generations.