Common land, town and village greens

Common land is 'land owned by one person over which another person is entitled to exercise rights of common.

'Rights of common' are legal rights people (the 'commoners') who live in certain properties or in a certain area are entitled to, which can include:

  • grazing sheep or cattle (herbage)
  • taking peat or turf (turbary)
  • taking wood, gorse or furze (estovers)
  • taking of fish (piscary)
  • eating of acorns or beechmast by pigs (pannage)

There is a misconception that common land is owned by the public and anyone has a right to enter. This is not necessarily so, and it was not until the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 that the public were granted legal right of access (on foot only) to registered common land.

Common Land in England is a searchable database of all parcels of common land in England and is sourced from HM Land Registry.

Town and village greens

Town or village greens share a similar history to common land but are defined separately for the purposes of the Commons Registration Act 1965.

Town or village greens are usually 'areas of land within defined settlements or geographical areas on which local inhabitants have indulged in lawful sports and pastimes for 20 years or more, as of right', such as:

  • organised or ad-hoc games
  • picnics
  • fêtes

Whilst town or village green land may be privately owned, many greens are owned and maintained by local parish or community councils. Some greens may also have 'rights of common' covering them.

Our responsibility as the 'Commons Registration Authority'

As the Commons Registration Authority, we are responsible for maintaining registers of common land and town and village greens for the City of York area.

For further information see:

A new application to register land as a town or village green should be made under the Commons Act 2006 Section 15; please complete an application to register land as a town or village green.

Status of recent registration applications

Holgate Community Garden and Play Park

Also see

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