Radio 4 broadcasts from Common Land and Village Greens event

Issue date: 05 July 2010

Sheep in countryside On Thursday 1 July over 160 delegates attended the 8th National Seminar on Common Land and Town and Village Greens, held at the University of Gloucestershire and organised by the Countryside and Community Research Institute(CCRI), a collaboration between the University of the West of England, the University of Gloucestershire, Royal Agricultural College and Hartpury College.

BBC Radio 4 was at the event and recorded a debate on the motion 'This seminar believes that little change to the current town and village green regulations is required'. Proposing the motion was Kate Ashbrook from the Open Spaces Society and opposing the motion was Cameron Watt from the National Housing Federation. Not only was the motion passed, it was broadcast on BBC 4's 'You and Yours' on Monday 5 July.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Defra)and Natural England provided some sponsorship for the event and this enabled a large number of upland farmers who graze areas of common land in England and Wales to attend. These upland pastures are an important part of their agricultural businesses, providing grazing for stock over the summer months, which allows fodder to be made on enclosed land on the farm to feed stock in the winter months.

Government officials attended from both England and Wales to provide updates on recent changes to regulations and schemes, and there were a number of interesting discussions on how these changes can work on commons. The event also saw the public launch of the Foundation for Common Land, an organisation that is seeking to raise the profile of and to represent upland farmers who manage these upland commons that are crucially important for biodiversity, heritage, landscape, mitigation against climate change and local communities. Some upland graziers, often terms 'commoners', offered their thoughts on the creation of Commons Councils, a new local 'bottom-up' body based on one or more commons that would be approved by the Secretary of State as formally responsibly for management on that area.

The Association of Commons Registration Authorities, the local authorities who hold the registers of common land and town and village greens, also made a presentation and delegates were keen to hear about how these registers, established in the 1970s, might be transferred to electronic registers and the current trial in some authorities on updating them.

Event organiser Chris Short, who is a Senior Research Fellow in the CCRI, said “This years event was the best yet because it had the widest range of speakers and topics and a real buzz of enthusiasm for all those with an interest in these fascinating and valuable public 'assets' to work together and that is what this event is all about - bringing people with very different objectives together.”

The CCRI has played a vital role in disseminating information on principal developments in common land legislation through the National Seminars on Common Land and Village Greens, which it has organised and hosted since 1999. The CCRI also organised and hosted the 12th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons Conference at the University of Gloucestershire in July 2008.

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