Wildlife & Countryside

Commons Acts 1876 and 1899

Regulation under the Commons Act 1876

Some 36 commons in England and Wales are or were regulated under the Commons Act 1876. The Act enabled commons to be regulated or inclosed by means of an Order made on application to the Inclosure Commissioners, and confirmed by Parliament by means of a Provisional Order Confirmation Act. Generally, the Orders provided for the management of the common to be assigned to a board of conservators, although in a number of cases, the functions of the board were vested in the local authority either under the terms of the Order, or under amending legislation.

The table [PDF] (50 KB) sets out details of the Orders confirmed, the commons affected, the extent of any rights of access conferred by the Orders, the present status of the Orders (so far as is known to us), and the present status of the board of conservators (again, so far as we are aware). We are unable to give any assurance that the information in the table is up-to-date, but we would be glad to be informed of any amendments which may be necessary - please contact us.

Defra is not responsible for the management of these commons, and any queries about management should be addressed to the relevant conservators or (in their absence), the local authority

Inclosure under the Commons Act 1876

The Commons Act 1876 also enabled the confirmation of Orders providing for the inclosure of common land or common fields. The table [PDF] (15 KB) sets out details of the orders confirmed. Some Acts passed under the authority of the 1876 Act confirmed both inclosure and regulation orders in relation to adjacent lands, and may therefore appear in both tables.

Schemes of management under the Commons Act 1899

The Commons Act 1899 provides an easy process of enabling district councils and National Park authorities to manage commons where their use for exercise and recreation is the prime consideration and where the owner and commoners do not require a direct voice in the management, or where the owner cannot be found.

The scheme must be in the form prescribed by the Commons (Schemes) Regulations 1982. It includes a power to provide temporary car-parking spaces on common land subject to the consent of the owner of the soil and of the Secretary of State being first obtained.

The Regulations provide for access to the common to be granted by a scheme to the ‘inhabitants’ but the effect of section 15(2) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 Act is that the right of access now extends to members of the general public.

There are at least 200 schemes of management made under the 1899 Act.  Details of schemes of management confirmed by the Secretary of State (and his predecessors in title) under section 1 of the Commons Act 1899 may be found in the casework table, and searching for entries labelled “Commons Act 1899 : scheme of regulation” in the Group column.

Section 50 of the Commons Act 2006 amends the Commons Act 1899 so as to update the arrangements for making schemes of management. Defra expects to consult on draft new arrangements, and new model schemes, in late 2008.

Boards of conservators

Several boards of conservators established under the 1876 Act or other legislation maintain websites about their activity.

Page last modified: 23 October 2008
Page published: 23 October 2008

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs