Common Land

The Heath, historically, has always been a piece of open land known as a common. Since medieval times rights of common[1] have been recognised and The Heath used to be managed jointly by the local freeholders and the lord of the manor. Under The Commons Registration Act 1965 The Heath was identified as Common Land Number CL39.

Commons are special. They are older than Domesday[2] and once covered half of England. But the majority were inclosed in the 17th and 18th centuries so now only a small residue survives.

Commons provide a pleasant space for local communities, a place to exercise and experience nature, and to allow children to play. They also enhance a locality’s sense of identity. It is crucial, therefore, that the views of the local community are considered in any decision on the use and management of commons.

All commons have an owner[3], just like any other land. However, other people – the commoners – have particular rights on them and, in addition, all people have the right to walk on them[4].

Society places such a high value on commons that they are given the highest level of protection. Certain changes, known as restricted works, even if temporary, can be made only with the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs[5]. Matters that would be weighed for such consent would include:

  • interests of owners, occupiers and right holders;
  • interests of the neighbourhood;
  • public interests, including:
    • nature conservation;
    • conservation of the landscape;
    • protection of historic features;
    • protection of public rights of access.

The legal framework around common land is complex. Only the essence can be explained here but more detailed information is readily available elsewhere[6].

We celebrate the special status of The Heath as common land and are reassured by the special protection it is afforded. It should ensure that The Heath remains a space the local community can continue to enjoy into the future.


[1] For example, rights of estover (timber), turbage (turf), herbage (grazing) and the right to dig sand and clay, documented in 1734.
[2] The Domesday Book, completed in 1068.
[3] The Heath is owned by Tatton Estate
[4] The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
[5] Law of Property Act 1925 and Commons Act 2006, Section 38.
[6] Some reference sources:

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