Common Land

The Heath has always been open land known as a common. Rights of Common [1] have been recognised since medieval times. In recent history, The Heath was managed jointly by the local freeholders and the lord of the manor [2]. Under The Commons Registration Act 1965 it was formally registered as Common Land.

Commons are special. They are older than Domesday [3] and once covered half of England. However, the majority of them were enclosed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, only a small fraction of these spaces remain.

Commons serve as cherished green areas within communities. They provide an opportunity to connect with nature, engage in physical activities, and contribute to the local sense of identity. Decisions regarding their usage and management must carefully consider the opinions of the local community.

Like any other land, all commons have an owner [4]. However, what sets them apart is that special rights are granted to the commoners, and everyone has the freedom to roam across them [5].

Society recognises the immense value of commons and has implemented the highest level of protection for them. Certain changes, known as restricted works, even if temporary, can only be made with the approval of the Secretary of State [6]. Matters that would be weighed for such consent would include:

  • interests of owners, occupiers and right holders;
  • interests of the neighbourhood;
  • broader 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 intricate, but detailed information is readily available elsewhere [7].

We celebrate the special status of The Heath as common land and are reassured by the special protection it provides. It ensures that The Heath will remain a space that the community can enjoy for years to come.


[1] For example, rights of estover (timber), turbage (turf), herbage (grazing) and the right to dig sand and clay, documented in 1734.

[2] Knutsford: A History, Leach, ISBN 978-0750955553.

[3] The Domesday Book, completed in 1068.

[4] The Heath is owned by Tatton Estate.

[5] The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

[6] Law of Property Act 1925 and Commons Act 2006, Section 38.

[7] Reference sources:

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