New common land would provide much needed public open space (photo Matthew Roberts)

Commons for the future?

Thursday 08 July, 2021

Norfolk Wildlife Trust has this week published a study which considers the strengths and weaknesses of the potential for new commons, with recommendations for a number of ways forward. 

These include creating commons as new open spaces that form part of larger housing developments and registering new commons with meaningful rights for our modern lives: providing sustainable local resources and enabling residents to become involved in the care of the common.

The report also assesses what is needed to support communities wishing to create new commons and covers the history of commons: explaining the legal protection and open access status of commons. The current planning framework, biodiversity, health and carbon agendas are also discussed in depth.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife in Common project, which finished last year, involved working with volunteers researching the wildlife, history and use of common land in Norfolk and demonstrated the clear connection to their local common felt by many Norfolk residents. 

Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Roydon Common, credit Neal Trafankowski

Conservation Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Helen Baczkowska, who is herself a  Norfolk commons rights-holder said: “Back in the day every parish in Norfolk would have had its own common. Many people in Norfolk feel passionately about commons as the places they walk, seek solace and enjoy encounters with wildlife. 

“A new common will be a public open space firmly rooted in the historic landscape of an area, providing a place for ‘fresh air and exercise’ and perhaps designed to look very like existing local commons. 

“It will be part of the ecological network of an area and have wildlife habitats that play a part in carbon capture, as well as creating a new space for wildlife. 

“With such connection to history, wildlife and communities, our project led to consideration and conversations with Norfolk County Council about the possibility of creating new commons in Norfolk.”

As the last year has demonstrated, local, accessible green space is vital for the health and wellbeing of people. This feasibility study gives illustrations that create a vision for new commons and recommendations for further action. It looks at a number of different models for creating new commons, as well as measures to gain support for the idea amongst community groups, local planning authorities and other key agencies, the development of toolkits and provision of training and support. 

Norfolk Wildlife Trust will be running a series of events to promote the idea to local authorities and communities interested in establishing new commons. If you would like to be kept informed of these event please email [email protected]

Norfolk Commons Week is NWT’s annual weeklong celebration of commons in Norfolk, with walks, talks and practical tasks taking place around the county. 


Download the report here

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