We are responsible for processing applications to register land as a town or village green in Somerset. We can also provide advice on grazing permits. Land used for grazing by the local community today is based on law, regular usage or tradition. Most grazed common land today consists of heath, fen and village greens.
We are also responsible for maintaining and updating the common land and town or village green registers for land in Somerset.
How do I apply?
Anyone can apply to register a town or village green. Please read the guidance notes on how to complete a town or village green application first. To apply to register a new town or village green you will need to complete an application form. You can find the guidance notes and application form in the Information and resources section.
You will also need to gather evidence of use of the land as a town or village green and submit this on an individual Evidence Questionnaire's which also can be found in the Information and resources section. To register town or village greens you need to prove that the land has been lawfully used for 20 years for sports and pastimes by a significant group of people in the neighbourhood or locality.
What happens next?
Your application will be given a reference number, and will be examined to check that it is correct, such as the maps are of the correct scale and the evidence forms and statutory declaration are signed and dated. The Registration Authority has power to request further information.
The authority can reject the application if it is not correct. If the application is deficient in any way you will be given a chance to correct what is wrong.
Notices will be posted on site and an advert placed in the local paper to allow for objections to the application. If objections are received you will have a chance to respond to them via the Registration Authority. The decision whether or not to register the land can be made by a committee of the Registration Authority. If it is contentious, Counsel's opinion may be sought, or a Non Statutory Public Inquiry may be held.
If an application is accepted it will be registered, however if the authority rejects the application you and the objector will be informed of the basis for non registration.
How long does it take?
Timescales vary depending on each application and whether objections are received. The process can take a great deal of time and money especially if you decide to employ legal representation should it proceed to public inquiry. It can take 12 to 18 months to determine an application.
How much does it cost?
There is no charge for an application to register new common land or town or village greens, however if you employ legal representation there can be significant financial implications.
Laws and regulation
The Commons Act 2006: Designed to protect our common land for current and future generations, and deliver real benefits in terms of sustainable farming, public access and biodiversity. The Commons Bill received Royal Assent on 19 July 2006.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000: This permits public access to open countryside including access to common land. The Countryside Agency have published conclusive maps for all areas showing the land (including commons) to which the public have access and the new open access rights are now in operation in all regions subject to any short or long term restrictions that may apply.
Rights of common 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)
The Law of Property Act 1925 (Section 194)
Under this section, it is unlawful to construct buildings, erect fences, or carry out any other works which prevent access to common land unless the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has given permission. This applies to all commons (and village greens) which has rights of common over them on 1 January 1926.
In deciding whether or not to give permission, the Secretary of State has to take into account the benefits to the neighbourhood and to any private interests in the land.
This section does not apply to works authorised by Acts of Parliament, the winning and working of minerals, or any telegraphic line as defined in the Telegraphic Act, 1878. A Section 194 application to the local planning authority which might be necessary.
Before applying to register common land or a town or village green you may wish to check the existing registers. The registers are available for public inspection during office hours at County Hall, Taunton. You can find out how to book an appointment on our Book an appointment to view the Commons Register page.
You can also view the Highways and Commons Deposits Register online
Each area of common land or town or village green listed in the registers has a unique Unit Number (CL is the prefix defining land as common land, VG is the prefix defining the land as a town or village green).
Each registration is divided into 3 sections showing details of:
Land – This includes a description of the land, who registered it and when it became registered. There are also related plans which show the boundaries of the land.
Rights – This includes a description of the rights of common land (the right to graze sheep or cattle), over which area of the common land they are exercisable and the name of the person (the ‘commoner’) who holds the rights.
Ownership – This includes details of owners of the land. However, entries in this section of the registers are not held to be conclusive.
Further information on common land and town or village greens can be found on both the Defra and the Open Spaces Society's websites.