Common land is historical land which has remained largely undisturbed through the centuries as a remnant of medieval times when people relied on commons for their survival.

Common land is recorded in public registers. Dorset Council is the Commons Registration Authority for the county of Dorset. We compile, maintain and can amend the registers of commons and town and village greens.

Search the register

You can check whether land is registered as a common or town or village green by inspecting the register in person.

You can also use our search service (please provide a map showing the area of land that you're interested in). Searches cost £35 + VAT and should be paid by cheque to 'Dorset Council'.

Contact us for more information about searching the register.

Local land charges and searches

A question about commons is included in Part II of Form Con 29 which can be used if you are buying land. Read more about local land charges and searches.

Who owns common land

All common land has an owner, whether it is a local authority, the National Trust or private individual.

We only become involved in the management of commons or the enforcement or protection of rights if we own the land or manage it by agreement.

Who can use common land 

The public has the right to walk on most commons, subject to certain restrictions, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

On many commons, there is a right to ride horses under section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925.

Owners of nearby properties have the right to:

  • pasture cattle, horses, sheep or other animals (pasture)

  • fish (piscary)

  • take sod of turf for fuel (turbary)

  • extract minerals, sand, gravel etc (common in the soil)

  • turn out pigs (pannage)

  • take wood (estovers)

Carrying out works on common land

You must apply for consent to the Secretary of State for Environment to carry out works on common land. You may also need planning permission or other consent. 

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