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Common land

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It is generally thought that common land is so called because "everyone" owns it, but this is not correct.

Common land is usually owned by one person, namely the landowner.  It is called "common land" because historically the landowner has allowed certain other people to use it.  

What are 'rights of commons'

Most common land dates back to mediaeval times when land was owned by the lord of the manor. The lord would give his tenants the right to use pasture or waste land in particular ways. This permission to use the “common land” was called “holding rights of common”, and rights holders were called “commoners”. The rights were attached to the particular farmland or premises that were part of the manor. On common land, commoners could undertake certain specified activities e.g. grazing livestock, gathering wood, turf or acorns, or fishing.

The practice has continued to the present day, even though the original manor may be long gone. Nowadays, most rights are still attached to farms or premises. The current owners or tenants can use the rights of common belonging to that property.

Common land in Wales

Approximately 8.4% of Wales is covered by registered common land amounting to around 175,000 hectares. Many small commons abut each other, making large areas of common land across Wales. These small commons may have different owners and different rights holders. Many commons are important for agriculture in Wales, providing grazing for sheep and cattle. In addition, many commons are enjoyed for their leisure and environmental interests. Some are in National Parks or are owned by the National Trust.  

Common land can provide important habitat for protected birds, wildlife and plants.

For further information on common land issues and the Commons Act 2006, please use these contact details.

For information on common land issues contact your local Commons Registration Office at: Authorities: Welsh Local Government Association (external link).

Useful contacts

For information and queries on the Commons Act 2006 contact:

The Animal Policy Delivery Branch
1st Floor
Welsh Government
Cathays Park
CF10 3NQ