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Common land and village greens

Surrey County Council is the Commons Registration Authority for Surrey as set up by the Commons Registration Act 1965. As the Registration Authority we maintain a Register of Common Land and a Register of Town or Village Greens.

Surrey has a greater proportion of common land in public or quasi-public ownership than any other County. There are over 24,000 acres of registered common land in Surrey.

In due course the Commons Act 2006 will replace the Commons Registration Act 1965. The Commons Act 2006 received the Royal Assent on 19 July 2006 and intends to be a comprehensive authority on the law relating to commons and town and village greens. However, please note that the Act is not yet fully in force and will not be for quite a number of years to come.

  1. What is Common Land?
  2. What are these "common rights"?
  3. What is a Town or Village Green?
  4. What information is in the Registers?
  5. Where can I find the Registers?
  6. How do I contact the Commons Registration Section?
  7. Does the Commons Registration Section deal with Local Searches?
  8. How can I find out if land is registered common land?
  9. Can I drive across Common Land to get to my house?
  10. Who manages Surrey County Council common land?
  11. Applications and Notices for the registration of new town or village greens in Surrey
  12. How do I make a landowner statement under sections 15A and 15B of the Commons Act 2006?
  13. Correcting the Commons Register

1. What is Common Land?

Almost all common land has an owner – usually a private individual or a local council or a body such as the National Trust. The term 'common' doesn't mean that it is in common ownership or that the public own it at all. Common Land refers to the "rights" which specific people have, to products of the soil, not ownership of the land. Common Land, where ownership is unclaimed, may be protected by the local authority (Section 9 of the Commons Registration Act 1965/Section 45 of the Commons Act 2006).

Common Land under Section 22 (1) of the Commons Registration Act 1965 means:

(a) land subject to rights of common;
(b) waste land of a manor not subject to rights of common.
but does not include a town or village green or any land which forms part of a highway.

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2. What are these "common rights"?

There are six types of common rights. These have been granted to specific people known as commoners, not the general public.

They are :

  • Pasture – the right to graze animals
  • Pannage – the right to let your pigs go and eat acorns and beech mast
  • Estovers – the right to take fallen branches or bracken
  • Turbary – the right to dig turf or peat for use as fuel or for thatching
  • Piscary – the right to take fish
  • Common in the soil – the right to take stone, sand or minerals.

The granting of these rights has its origins in our history when the Medieval Lord of the Manor had to accept that one or more of these rights existed. Not every common will have all six rights granted and some may not have any at all.

The County Council, as Commons Registration Authority, maintains the Register of Common Land where common rights may be registered. Common rights may be registered elsewhere at HM Land Registry or contained in unregistered title deeds.

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3. What is a Town or Village Green?

There are 3 types of town / village greens:

  • statutory greens,
  • customary greens – i.e. those based on immemorial use, and
  • prescriptive greens – i.e. those based on long user (20 years).

Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 sets out the criteria for the registration of land as a new village green. This section came in to force on 6th April 2007.

Land can become a town or village green where a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years;

  • And they continue to do so at the time of the application; or
  • Where the cessation of use occurred after the commencement of section 15 and the application is made within the period of two years beginning with the cessation of use; or
  • Where the cessation of use occurred before commencement of section 15 and the application is made within the period of five years beginning with the cessation of use.

The owner of land can also voluntarily register land as a village green.

For further information on registering a new Town or Village Green please contact the Commons Registration Section. We have produced a Town or Village Green Application Pack containing: -

  • Information for applicants;
  • Summary of the registration procedure in Surrey;
  • Extract from the Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) (Interim Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2007, Section 3, 7 and 10.

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4. What information is in the Registers?

Each area of common land or town or village green is listed in the Registers under a unique Unit Number. For example, Horsell Common is register unit No. CL 100 (the CL prefix defines the land as common). Likewise, Ripley Green is register unit No. VG 19 (the VG prefix defines the land as town or village green).

Each unit number in the register is divided into three sections showing details of: -

  • Land – includes a description of the land, when it was registered and who by. This section also includes the definitive map of common land and village greens.
  • Rights – includes a description of the rights of common (i.e. the right to graze 10 sheep, 2 cows etc.), over which area of the common they are exercisable and which property they are attached to. Some town or village greens also have rights of common registered over them. Entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive.
  • Ownership – includes details of owners of common land. However, entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive.

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5. Where can I find the Registers?

The Registers of Common Land and Town or Village Greens are held in the Commons Registration Section, at County Hall.

The Registers are available for public inspection on Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays) between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm by prior appointment with the Commons Registration Section.

We can also provide certified copies of the Written Register and Definitive Map for a reasonable charge. For further information contact the Commons Registration Section.

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6. How to contact the Commons Registration Section?

For enquiries about a specific Common or to make an appointment to view the Commons Registers, please telephone the Commons Registration Officer Helen Gilbert, Tel: 020 8541 8935 or email commons.villagegreens@surreycc.gov.uk. 

The address of the Commons Registration Section is:

Surrey County Council
Commons Registration Section,
County Hall
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2DN

OR Document Exchange :

DX 31509 Kingston upon Thames

Please Note: The Commons Registration Section has administrative functions only. We can inform you as to procedures but we cannot give you legal advice.

If you require legal advice/interpretation of the law, you must seek your own independent advice.

For further information on solicitors in your area: www.solicitors-online.com.

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7. Does the Commons Registration Section deal with Local Searches?

The answer to this is NO. They are dealt with by the District and Borough Councils, not the County Council.

For enquiries about a specific Common please contact the Commons Registration Section.

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8. How can I find out if land is registered common land?

You can either visit County Hall and look at the Commons Register Map, or carryout an official search of the register. From the 1st October 2007, the statutory form CR 21 has been abolished and replaced by Question 22 on the form CON29 (O) Enquiries of Local Authority, as stated in The Commons Registration (General) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2007 SI 2007/2404.

Normally, a solicitor acting on your behalf carries out the search. They will submit the form CON29 (O) and the appropriate fee to the relevant district or borough council. To complete their reply to your form, the district or borough council will ask the Highways Information Team to supply them with information about common land and town/village greens.

For more information and to find out how to perform a local land charge search, visit the website of your district or borough council.

We can also provide certified copies of the Written Register and Definitive Map for a reasonable charge. For further information contact the Commons Registration Section.

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9. Can I drive across Common Land to get to my house?

It is an offence to drive across common land without lawful authority of the owner of the land.

Section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 applies:

"to a way which the owner or occupier (from time to time) of any premises has used as a means of access for vehicles to the premises, if that use of the way –

  • (a) was an offence under an enactment applying to the land crossed by the way, but
  • (b) would otherwise have been sufficient to create on or after the prescribed date, and to keep in existence, an easement giving right of way for vehicles."

See Vehicular Access across Common and Other Land (England) Regulations 2002.

To obtain access over common land contact the owner of the land.

For further information on creating a right of way for vehicles over common land owned by Surrey County Council, please contact:

Jenny Roach
Estates Planning & Management
Surrey County Council
County Hall
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2DN
Telephone Number 0208 5417007

OR Document Exchange:

DX 31509 Kingston upon Thames

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10. Who manages Surrey County Council common land?

The areas of common land owned by Surrey County Council are managed in partnership with Surrey Wildlife Trust through the company 'SWT Countryside Services Ltd'. For further details, see Surrey's Countryside Estate page.

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11. Applications and Notices for the registration of new town or village greens in Surrey

Current application:1871 - Land at Rydens Road and Severn Drive, Walton (PDF 102 KB)

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12. How do I make a landowner statement under sections 15A and 15B of the Commons Act 2006?

1 October 2013 section 15 of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 inserted sections 15A and 15B into the Commons Act 2006.  This introduced a register of landowner statements which bring to an end any period of recreational use 'as of right' over land. 

The register is maintained by the Countryside Access Team.  For further details Highways Act and Commons Act deposits page.

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13. Correcting the Commons Register

On 15 December 2014 The Commons Registration (England) Regulations 2014 will be implemented. From that date it will be possible to make five types of 'corrective applications'. Corrective applications are: section 19(2)(a) of the Commons Act 2006 to correct mistakes made by the registration authority, and paragraphs 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Schedule 2 to remove 'buildings' or 'other land' that was wrongly registered as either common land or town/village green.

Applications must be made on the forms published on the gov.uk website. Each application form contains notes on who can apply and the information and evidence that must be provided. In some case a fee will be payable for applications.

Details of application fees:

Provision under, or for the purposes of which, the application is made Purpose of application Surrey County Council Application Fee
Section 19 of the 2006 Act Correction, for the purpose of section 19(2)(a), of a mistake made by the registration authority No fee
Schedule 2, paragraphs 6 to 9, to the 2006 Act Correction, for the purpose of section 19(2)(a), of a mistake made by the registration authority No fee
Schedule 2, paragraphs 6 to 9, to the 2006 Act Deregistration of certain land registered as common land or as a town or village green £1,000

From 15 December 2014 fees will also be payable to the Planning Inspectorate acting as the determining authority for certain applications.

Application to amend the Commons Register

Current notices under the Commons Act 2006 Section 22: Schedule 2(6)

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