The Voice Of The People Of The Forest of Dean

DFV objection to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 FODDC Notification of Public Spaces Protection Order, Bream


Right of Common in the Forest of Dean is a traditional/customary Common Law right - The Common Law is founded on tradition and custom that has manifested itself over the centuries into 'judge made law'. In other words law made by judicial judgements of issues brought before the courts over centuries that go to make up judicial authority/precedents for future judges to follow and continuously build on.

The Commoners and Cottagers of the Forest of Dean and all sorts of other inhabitants have for time out of mind maintained their position that they have a right of common irrespective of whether they reside inside or out of the perambulation of the Forest of Dean and have also maintained their right to graze sheep; and other than a short spell during the last foot and mouth outbreak have demonstrated this by continuous uninterrupted exercise of those rights and continue to do so to this day.

They recognise that these claims are subject to the Dean Forest Enclosures provisions and certain identified freeholds but with no other geographical restriction; and until recently it has been long and well understood by local people that those with property within that perambulation fall under the same duty as the Forestry Commission in so far as the Enclosures Acts require them to fence their land against the grazing animals as opposed to normally the other way about. More recently people moving into the area have either not understood or prefer not to want to understand this.

What is clear to Dean Forest Voice however is that such rights to common are recognised and preserved by the 1667 Dean Forest (Reafforestation) Act, and it would be a matter of proof in an individual case of the right claimed. These rights may be conveniently divided into 2 categories: rights of occupiers of lands outside the Forest and lying within adjoining villages ortownships; and possible modern rights arising by prescription attaching to lands within the Forest.

Records of an Auction that took place on the 27th and 28th of July 1818 when the Commissioners of Woods disposed of 1,300 acres of 'Farms and detached Parcels of Arable, Meadow, Pasture, and Wood-Lands (claiming right of common on the adjacent Forest of Dean)' is of interest. This catalogue is archived in the Gloucestershire Record Office and highlights on the front cover the Right of Common as a sales feature.

The Highways Act 1980 noted the penalties in connection with straying animals, but 155(5) states that 'nothing in this section prejudices or affects any rights of pasture on the side of a highway'. General note; It is an offence to allow animals to stray onto the highway, except where the highway passes over unenclosed ground or where there are rights of pasture in relation to the side of the highway.

The Dean Forest Act 1667 was the first Act specific to Dean following the Delimitation of Forest Act, 1647. It was (and from a right of common point of view still is) the first of a string of eleven operational Acts either specific to Dean or specific to it and the New Forest that is repealed by the 1971 Act save for their provisions in respect of the right of common as reserved by section 1(5). For instance the highways through the Forest of Dean required a specific statute - the East and West Dean (Highways) Act 1883 which authorised the provision for highways to be built subject to the right of common. These highways were always deemed at arms length from The Police and Town Clauses Act 1847 and accordingly section 1(5) of the 1971 Act preserves that position in respect of their rights to graze sheep in all the unenclosed lands within the perambulation of the Forest of Dean other than those certain freeholds identified through the several Commissions and Select Commmittees of Enquiry.

Dean Forest Voice strongly oppose the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order. We firmly believe that it will not solve any perceived problem in Bream and will only move the problem elsewhere, which will lead to more orders being introduced elsewhere in the Forest and the eventual end of the tradition of Commoning.

Finally we believe that many of the problems voiced by residents are Police Matters and not a probem of those Commoning.

Keith Morgan
for and on behalf of Dean Forest Voice
01594 833552