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A Common Purpose

Front cover for A Common Purpose

A guide to Community Engagement for those contemplating management on Common Land (revised edition 2012)

By Natural England

The aim of this Natural England document is to introduce and outline a process that anyone concerned with the long-term management of common land can follow and implement.

The subject is probably not widely understood so the guidance helps to provide a number of solutions and promote sound and effective management.

The approach is based on the principle of working with stakeholders to create increased levels of awareness of the issues and values related to their common and the range of possible solutions that would tackle the one while respecting the other. By developing an increased understanding of all stakeholders views, and agreeing the problems before proposing solutions this approach seeks to promote the development of sound, effective management proposals based on co-operation. Anyone considering applying for consent for works under s36 of the Commons Act 2006 is advised to use the consultation process in A Common Purpose.

Since the original publication of this guidance in 2005, the Commons Act 2006 has been passed which changes some aspects of the law relating to carrying out works on commons and allows for the setting up of commons councils.

This revised edition represents a collective enterprise. It was prepared by Natural England, as part of the Common Land Major Project, commencing with the original work by the Countryside and Community Research Unit of the University of Gloucestershire, and incorporating amendments based on the practical experience of its use by the Open Spaces Society, Country Land and Business Association, the Wildlife Trusts, commoners, parish councils, local access fora, local authorities and consultants.

This document has been written by Natural England. It is intended as a working document. Comments and new information are welcomed and should be addressed to


  • Preface to the second edition
  • Introduction
  • The commons of England
    - What is common land?
    - Why is common land so special?
    - The Protection of Commons
    - Causes for concern
    - The Secretary of State’s role concerning work on commons
  • Using A Common Purpose
    - Aim
    - Issues beyond the scope of A Common Purpose
    - Circumstances where A Common Purpose should be followed
  • Principles: applicable in all cases
  • Detailed Guidance: to be tailored according to local circumstances
    Stage 1: Gathering background information
    Stage 2: Engaging with stakeholders
    Stage 3: Harnessing the views of stakeholders
    Stage 4: Examining management options
    Stage 5: Selecting the most appropriate management option(s)
    Stage 6: Implementation
  • Annex 1: Best practice in stakeholder participation
  • Annex 2: Identification of stakeholders and issues
  • Annex 3: Consent procedures relating to common land in England
  • Annex 4: Extracts from the Commons Act 2006: part 3, works
  • Annex 5: The wider policy and legal framework for common land
  • Annex 6: Further reading, advice and support
  • Annex 7: Researching the management options

Additional Information

  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 37

If you require an alternative accessible version of this document please contact: Natural England, Block B, Government Buildings, Whittington Road, Worcester WR5 2LQ,  Tel: 0300 060 3900 Email:

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