Finally, seven years after the Commons Act 2006 received Royal Assent, nearly four years after Part 2 was brought into force, and three and a half years after a model constitution was first published, England’s first ever commons council is about to be established.
An order has been made by Defra Minister for natural environment and science Rupert de Mauley to establish a commons council for Brendon common on Exmoor, Devon. The Brendon Commons Council Establishment Order 2013 will come into force on 1st January next year, with the council established from 1st April. The Council will have statutory powers to manage the exercise of rights of common, and to manage the vegetation on the common, and to make rules (in effect, byelaws) for these purposes. Brendon will be the first ever common for which a statutory management body of commoners and landowners has been created with powers to regulate their own affairs, without the need for primary legislation.
Defra consulted on a draft establishment order earlier in the autumn (see an earlier entry in this blog), and by the close of the consultation period, was satisfied (as the 2006 Act requires) that there was ‘substantial support’ from the local interests for the council. The Minister will now need to appoint a local returning officer to draw up lists of commoners eligible to vote in elections to the council, so as to allow elections to be held before 1st April. The draft lists must be open to public scrutiny, before the returning officer invites nominations for candidates for election, and for the landowner to appoint its own representative. The election will take place in the run-up to the first meeting of the council, and the results will be announced at that meeting. It’s unlikely that Peter Snow will be broadcasting live from Exford village hall, but for commoners on Brendon Common, and in England generally, it will be a significant step towards the goal of self-determination through rules-based management envisaged by the 2006 Act and advocated by Nobel-prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom. PannageMan wishes the Brendon Commons Council well.