Common Land

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

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. Now only a tiny residue survives.

Commons provide green space for communities. They are places to experience nature, take exercise and play, and they contribute to a locality’s sense of identity. Decisions on their use and management must take into account the local community’s views.

All commons have an owner [3], just like any other land. However, other people – the commoners – have special rights, and everyone has the right to roam over 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;
  • 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 complex. You will find detailed information readily available elsewhere [6].

We celebrate the special status of The Heath as common land and are reassured by the special protection it affords. It ensures that The Heath will remain a space that the community can enjoy in 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] Reference sources:

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