click here to read more

Says Adrienne Yentis

Says Adrienne YentisA friend of mine recently was riding on the heath
and she came across a group of cattle strung out across the bridlepath with no way through – the only way off was to turn round. Fortunately her horse
remained calm throughout. But you can imagine how a nervous horse might react ........... read more

How difficult is it to get a simple answer to a simple question?

Maureen Comber asks Richard Hepburn, Defra, a simple question:

Is it a criminal offence to remove common land from the register of common land?

If so who is responsible for putting the matter right so that the correct amendments can be made?

Is it Defra or Natural England?

This is the correspondence that resulted.

Says Grant McPhee, Defra

DefraRichard forwarded your email because I deal with our policy on the commons registers.

I’m not aware of any criminal offence of removing a common from the registers, except where done through fraud (see s.14(b) of the 1965 Act which isn’t in itself a criminal offence but the High Court may have powers to prosecute consequent to a referral under s.14(b)).

A commons registration authority can only remove land from the register consequent to the successful completion of the application procedure allowed under any of the following statutory mechanisms, which are or were in force throughout England: s.16 of the 2006 Act, s.19 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 or s.147 of the Inclosure Act 1845 (repealed in 2007).

In the pioneer areas only, land can also be removed from the register by virtue of sections 14 and 19, paragraphs 5 to 9 of Schedule 2 or paragraphs 2(2)(c) and (d) of Schedule 3 to the 2006 Act. But an authority only has the power to remove land consequent to a successful application or proposal (an application the authority makes to itself).

If a commons registration authority has removed common land from its register without due authority then a private court action could be taken by any person aggrieved by any such removal.

Maureen Comber replied

Says Maureen ComberThanks for that. As you can see I am not quite sure who does what re commons.

However if there is evidence of fraud who deals with it? Is it Natural England, or Defra?
Obviously it is not reasonable to expect a private court action these days?

Says Grant McPhee, Defra

DefraNeither Defra nor Natural England deals with it: it’s a private affair where anyone affected can choose to take forward a private court action. I hope this is sufficiently clear.

Maureen Comber replied

Says Maureen ComberThanks again but it is not a private affair if the common should be accessible and the public are being denied access because the land has been removed from the Register of Common Land without authorisation.

What then?

Says Grant McPhee

DefraIt’s a private affair between the local people, including the commoners and the registration authority.

Maureen Comber replied

Says Maureen ComberIf only it was that easy. In the case of Broxhead Common, Hants County Council are well out of order and have been covering their tracks for decades with false information, failure to disclose, loss and gain (mortgage fraud); so I am unable to do as you suggest below. In any case although I have tried through the years I ended up with an HCC ASBO threatening to implement their policy of unreasonable complainant Behaviour if I contacted them again on this matter.

The local press have run an article this week end which I attach.

Defra should take responsibility for the deliberate removal of registered common land from the register by the Registration Authority without the permission of the Secretary of State.

It would be lamentable to think that it is no longer possible for a government body like Defra to act independently of Local Authorities should the need arise.

If you can tell me that they can and will I will send you the brief conclusions to the strange case of Broxhead Common.

If you are unable to help I shall ask the Prime Minister why he is not investigating malfeasance beyond the walls of Westminster.

This cannot be a private affair when the public access rights have been withheld for half a century without the sanction of Parliament.

Somebody somewhere in government has to take responsibility for this one

Says Grant McPhee

DefraI’ve already given you the answer. This is not Defra’s responsibility. I have nothing further to add. I will not respond to any further correspondence on this matter

Maureen Comber writes to Eric Pickles,
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Says Maureen ComberIn the circumstances I have to ask how to get these matters addressed. Obviously not many citizens can afford to take action in the High Court which is where this needs to go and why should they when it is clearly a matter of public rights and interest?

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
wrote to Maureen Comber

Transparency and openness must underpin every decision your council makes for you.

Fifty years ago this month, Margaret Thatcher's maiden speech championed a Private Members' Bill which would ultimately make councils open up their meetings to the press and public. As she argued at the time, 'The public has the right... to know what its elected representatives are doing'. Indeed, local people should be able to hold politicians and public bodies to account over how their council tax is being spent, and decisions made on their behalf.

We are ushering in a new era of transparency, where every aspect of council business is open to democratic scrutiny and an army of armchair auditors can shine a spotlight on waste and unnecessary cost to help protect frontline services.

For too long, Labour let councils spend your hard-earned cash without proper local accountability. For too long, Labour took local taxpayers for a ride.

You wouldn't spend your money without knowing what you were buying - so why let the Government?

With greater power for local councils must come greater local accountability. We are committed to increasing transparency across Whitehall and local authorities in order to make data more readily available to you, the citizen, and allow you to hold service providers to account. I recently called on every council in the country to publish all of their spending data over £500 online - and only Labour-run Nottingham are yet to deliver, with their Labour leader arrogantly saying 'we have much better things to be doing'. What have they got to hide?

Not only will transparency allow you to see where your money goes and what it delivers, throwing open the council books will also unlock the door to new businesses and encourage greater innovation and entrepreneurship.

When the new Government is giving unprecedented power and freedom to councils, it's more important than ever that local residents can keep tabs on what their town hall is up to. We're bringing the full glare of the public's eye onto spending. I invite you to scrutinise where your money goes and help us make sure it is spent on the right priorities. It's time to put the council receipts at your fingertips.

You can see how your council is spending your money by clicking here.

Maureen Comber writes to her local MP, Damian Hinds
and the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Nueberger

Says Maureen ComberWith reference to the emails ... please will you ask the Prime Minister how the public are to deal with malfeasance by Local Authorities if Government Departments who should be responsible for the mistakes or wrong doing by Local Government simply do not want to accept responsibility or disclose who should be addressing the issue.

In the light of the the following email please may I know who does take responsibility for local government malfeasance with regard to common land if it is not DEFRA ?


Just how difficult is it to get a simple answer to a simple question?

Says Linda WrightSays Linda Wright

We moved to a Shropshire location a year ago having surveyed the local OS map and noted the significant number of bridleways around the property. Sadly the map appears a total fiction. Scarce any of the bridleways are usable ........... read more

Read more here

Email this to a friend !!

Enter recipient's e-mail: