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Rights of Common

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The case between Dance v Savery and others highlighted the problem of old Commons rights and their modern meanings. Mr Dance claimed that he held grazing rights over one parcel of land on the edge of Dartmoor, he also claimed that he had the right to graze over two additional parcels of Common land. The defendants objected to this and looked in detail at the actual rights concerned with each piece of land. Previous to the 1965 Commons Registration Act and previous to Mr Dance purchasing the land, all of the land was owned under the same owner therefore the rights conveyed with the sale were indefinitely singular. Afterwards the rights, although still the same wording (to graze on the one parcel and right to stray on the other parcels), become split between different owners. How then do the rights apply and to what extent? Much of this should have been covered in the Commons Registration Act 1965 but it in fact had a few problems in itself. The basis of this Act was to register the rights over a piece of common land. However, a problem occurs when different parcels of land are registered and a split right is thought to cover all parcels. In fact after Mr Justice Kitchens' decision at the Court of Appeal to allow Mr Dance to carry on his grazing practices, it seems that the rights which were registered under the 1965 Act and essentially under the Land Registration Act as well, depend upon the parcel of land in question. Therefore a split right must be considered in the terms of each parcel of land and not as a right that is exactly the same over all parcels as it is the first. There is also considerable debate to be concluded generally on this issue about the numerical limits set in a particular right and how changing times and contexts should affect this right. Equally should more weight be given to the historical use of a particular parcel of land and for the continuation of that use? These sorts of questions are fundamental to the continued use of Common land in modern society and with the estimated 574,000 ha of Common land across England and Wales you can expect to see more cases like this. • For additional information please contact: Edward Worthy of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.