Common land has considerable environmental significance, and a potentially key role in the delivery of the UK government’s overall strategy for improving the environmental quality of wildlife habitats in England and Wales. Common land has a unique legal status. Establishing schemes for the conservation management of sensitive habitats and landscapes on common land is complicated by the unusual nature of property rights in commons.
A key objective of the Commons Act 2006 is the establishment of a new management regime for the governance of commons based on a self regulatory model and statutory commons councils. This is an integral – and important – element not only of the government's strategy for improving the protection of wildlife habitats but also for implementing EC Directives on wildlife, including the Habitats and Species Directive of 1992. This article examines whether the new law on environmental governance in the 2006 Act and concludes with an appraisal of its likely impact.