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Dartmoor Commons... Do You Have Unregistered Rights?

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More than 40 years after the Commons Registration Act 1965 came into effect, there remains a great deal of doubt, and potential for dispute, over rights of common. The Devon County Council, as commons registration authority, has made decisions recently in a number of cases concerning rights of common arising since 1970. This is an example of the sort of decision being made :

The effect of the decision is that no new rights could be granted, or acquired by prescription, between 1970 (when the 1965 Act came into effect) and the commencement in Devon of the Commons Act 2006. A number of commoners whose rights were not registered under the 1965 Act have continued to exercise those ‘rights’ and have received RPA payments. The right to payments under future schemes is at risk.

The law is uncertain and needs clarification not only for the benefit of Dartmoor Commoners but for others across England & Wales. We are looking to take this point of law for determination by the High Court. The potential costs are, of course, a disincentive. In many cases the disputed (or lost) rights are not sufficiently valuable to justify the costs risk. If no one commoner can challenge the decision acting alone, the answer may be for commoners acting together to contribute to a fighting fund.

Please contact us if you think you may be affected. For further information, please see also this item on the website of the Foundation for Common Land an organisation of which Prof Ian Mercer, chairman of Dartmoor Commoners’ Council, is a member.

NB You may have followed the posts last year on the Court of Appeal decision in Dance v Savery & others. The decision has done nothing to quieten titles to common land and the rights exercisable over commons!