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Contested Commons

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/E510310/1
Discipline: Law and Legal Studies
Funding opportunity: Research Grant
Areas of Impact: Communities, Environment; Policy Influence
Lead RO: Newcastle University
Region:North East

The changing governance and perceptions of the 540,000 hectares of common land in England and Wales was the subject of two projects led by Professor Chris Rodgers from Newcastle University.

The projects involved a range of stakeholders including DEFRA, Natural England, the Welsh Assembly Government, the National Trust, the Open Spaces Society, the RSPB, groups of common right holders and local historical and archaeology community groups. One of the outcomes was ‘LandNote’, a new ‘Google Earth’-based software tool. That provides 3D graphical representations of land topography, vegetation and use, allowing widely accessible communication of historical and current issues around the use of common land.

The National Trust, which is responsible for 11% of the common land in England and Wales, has drawn on the work of the projects to improve its governance of common land. Similarly, Natural England and the Foundation for Common Land used the project findings to help develop their ‘Commons Toolkit’. The project has also been widely praised with the Open Spaces Society noting the benefit to the society and its members. One of the Trustees of the Foundation for Common Land stated: “The Contested Common Land project has built up best practice and pooled it for the benefit of wider communities.”

Stephen Daniels (Director of the AHRC Landscape and Environment Programme) and Ben Cowell (National Trust) similarly acknowledged that: “As well as informing and improving the governance of commons, the project has enhanced wider scholarly understanding and public awareness”.

The project also produced a monograph, which has been widely recognised as an innovative example of effective interdisciplinary research: “For sustainability questions we have to study more systems over time, as this important collection of studies illustrates” - Elinor Ostrom (joint winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences); “Contested Common Land exemplifies collaborative multi-disciplinary landscape research at its finest” (Professor Stephen Daniels, Director AHRC Landscape and Environment Programme)

The projects also contributed to the ‘Foresight Land Use Futures’ final report and impact review for the UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Science.

For more information on the project visit:

Contested Common Land: environmental governance, law and sustainable land management

Contested common land: environmental governance, law and sustainable management, c. 1600-2006

Gateway to Research Project Links: Contested Common Land: environmental governance, law and sustainable land management c.1600-2006, Feb 07 - May 10

Associated image: Paul Arps on Flickr by CC 2.0