STRONGER laws are needed to protect common land from encroachment by illegal fencing, building, car parks and "other paraphernalia" says a report issued today by Britain's oldest access protection charity, the Open Spaces Society.
A Bill is at present going through parliament which will strengthen protection for commons - of which there are hundreds in the Yorkshire Dales - but it does not go far enough, says the society.
"Commons are important for their natural beauty, history, wildlife and opportunities for quiet enjoyment," says general secretary Kate Ashbrook.
Her views will get a mixed reception in the Dales because so-called common land has been subject to years of legal debate as to just what it constitutes. The Open Spaces Society says it is open to any member of the general public and thousands of acres of it were declared open under the Right to Roam legislation.
However, many locals say it use is restricted to the owners of neighbouring properties which hold ancient rights for grazing livestock and gathering firewood or even peat.
However, locals and ramblers alike are probably united in the drive against encroachment. There are regular disputes about people buying property in the Dales and then extending it illegally by laying out bigger gardens, fences and vehicles access routes across areas of land like village greens.