Naturressurslunsj: Upland Commons in England: taking a multi-partner collaborative approach to resolving challenges
Innledning ved Chris Short, Senior Research Fellow CCRI
This paper will
- provide a short background on common land in England covering the historic and legal aspects;
- review their importance today over a range of issues;
- consider the current threats to commons and commoners;
- Identifying the successful (local) approaches and current issues
- Consider how we might measuring these impacts
- Introduce a new project looking at 4 areas of upland common in England (Dartmoor, Lake District, North York Moors and Shropshire Hills).
What is Common Land?
Common land has been present in England and Wales in some form or other for the past millennium. During this time is has evolved to be distinct from other land in its legislation and aesthetically. The roots of these differences are because the ownership of the land has been subject to ‘rights of common’ held by others, who have no title of ownership, on the same area. These rights of common entitle those who possessing such rights (often called commoners) to utilize a range of products (wood, fish, timber) and characteristics (pasture, clean air) of that land. The activities covered under the term ‘rights of common’ include the grazing of stock (common of pasture), collecting of timber (estovers) or the taking of fish (piscary) and have the roots in local custom and practices (Short 2000 and Winter and Short 1999).
Something similar to common land is found in the 8th century document Beowolf, but there is clear descriptions of common land, including reference to common pastures, in the Domesday Book (1086). As the population includes the population increased and areas around these common pastures were enclosed the ‘customs’ became ‘rights’. The Statue of Merton (1235) allowed landlords to enclose common pastures but they were required to leave sufficient land for the tenants to graze their animals. During the 15th and 16th century many of the shared grazing land that remained had evolved into common land with apportionment of ‘rights’ to replace any shared practices as property moved from common to private ownership. The pressure to enclose was greatest in the 17th and early 19th centuries and what remained then closely matches what survives today. The Enclosure Act 1845 was intended to ensure total enclosure but met with resistance from the cities supporting the retention of areas of open space, for example in London. The Metropolitan Common Act 1866 represented the first act aimed at protecting the public, rather than agricultural interest. As a result in the 21st century we are left with a combination of private property, multiple rights holders and considerable, public interest.