What are the “commons”?
Historically these areas formed part of the land holdings of the Lord of the Manor of Blaxhall and were considered “manorial waste”. Some of this land is now registered as Common Land and has legal protection. Since 1994 the Lord of the Manor title has been passed on twice and portions of land on Mill Common have been sold on to private individuals.
Don't the public already own the commons?
No. The idea that commons are “common” to all, or are already publicly owned by default, is a myth. Every piece of land has to have an owner and the land in Blaxhall is no exception. In this sense “common” does not mean “public”. But in the long term we could change that.
What about commoners' rights?
There aren't any. Commoners' rights as recognised in law (such as the right to graze livestock or the right to collect firewood and turf) do not exist now, nor have they ever existed, over any of the registered common land in Blaxhall.
Can we create more commons?
It would be great if we could, but at the moment that is not possible. All land considered common land had to be registered as such in 1965 and until recently no new land could be registered as a common. A new scheme to register new areas of land as common is being trialled in other parts of the country but that route is not currently available to us in Suffolk. But other possibilities exist. For example, land can be registered as a “village green” which also has legal status and protection.
What about the “Great Common”?
Blaxhall Common is owned by Blaxhall Parish Council and managed on their behalf by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The Charity will seek to work with the Parish Council with respect to Blaxhall Common in the same way that it would wish to work with other landowners of important local open spaces.
What about the allotments?
Allotments at Stone Common and Mill Common were created around 1830 from wasteland owned by the Lord of the Manor. They do not have the same designation as common land but are still an important part of the village landscape. Ensuring the long-term security of Blaxhall's allotments falls within the scope of the Charity's objects and is something that the Charity would wish to become involved in.
Will public rights of access change?
Public rights of access over registered common land are already protected in law by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (subject to restrictions close to nearby properties). One of the roles of the Charity will be to help ensure that these rights are maintained and protected. Common land cannot be fenced off; it cannot be cleared; it cannot be dug up; it cannot be paved over; it cannot be built on; it cannot be turned over to agriculture (except for temporary grazing). Consequently the land is of little commercial value.