In 1876-82 a challenge to Commoners' Rights, which became known as the Ashdown Forest Dispute, led directly to today's framework of Forest governance. Following the dispute a Board of Conservators was established by Act of Parliament in 1885 to oversee the Forest bye-laws, including the protection of Commoner's rights. Further Acts of Parliament have since refined the governance of Ashdown Forest, the final and most important being the Ashdown Forest Act 1974.

You can read more about this in our history section.

  • "An Act to alter the constitution of, and to incorporate, the Conservators of Ashdown Forest; to alter the arrangements for meeting the expenses of the Conservators; to amend or repeal enactments relating to the Conservators and the forest and to confer further powers upon the Conservators; and for other purposes."
  • "The common lands form part of the manor of Duddleswell and the soil is vested in the lord, subject to the commonable rights of the commoners."
  • "The common lands are known as "the forest"."
  • "The public shall have access on foot to the Forest for quiet recreation and enjoyment."
  • "East Sussex County Council and Wealden District Council should meet the expenses of the Conservators in so far as such expenses are not defrayed by the proceeds of the rate levied on the Commoners and out of other income."
  • "The Conservators shall consist of the lord of the manor or his nominee, ten appointed Conservators and five elected Conservators."
  • "The elected Conservators, four of whom should themselves be commoners, will be elected by the commoners. The fifth may or may not be a commoner."
  • "The elected Conservators shall each serve a term of five years. The election will be held in March."
  • "The appointed Conservators shall consist of eight appointed by the County Council and two elected by Wealden District Council. They will serve for a period of four years. An appointed Conservator need not be a member of the council that appointed him."
  • "All Conservators may stand for re-election or re-appointment."
  • "Six Conservators shall constitute a quorum."
  • "The Conservators may appoint committees of their members and include non-Conservators."
  • "The Clerk shall prepare and keep a register of the Commoners, including who, where there are joint owners, shall be entitled to vote."
  • "Subject to the consent of the lord of the manor, the Conservators may engage in all manner of tree conservation, including planting, felling and marketing of timber."
  • "The Conservators shall protect any part of the forest and may erect fences therefor, up to a maximum area of 100 acres."
  • "The Conservators shall conserve the fauna and flora and improve grazing."
  • "The Conservators shall conserve those parts of the forest which are of historical, archaeological and physiographical interest."
  • "The Conservators shall provide and maintain vehicles, plant and buildings to fulfil their duties."
  • "The Conservators shall provide and maintain recreational facilities which require no buildings of any kind."
  • "The Conservators shall provide and maintain car parking facilities."
  • "The Conservators shall appoint officers and staff to carry out their duties."
  • "Subject to the consent of the lord of the manor, the Conservators may authorise by licence any activity and may collect and retain any monies due. Such control may not apply to the rights of the commoners or to access to individual members of the public on foot."
  • "The Conservators shall have power to control any activity upon the forest and may licence any activity that they consider consistent with the quiet enjoyment of the countryside."
  • "The Conservators shall have power to issue licences to sell ice-cream and non-alcoholic drinks from not more than six vehicles."
  • "The Conservators shall have power to make reasonable charges for the parking of vehicles on the forest."
  • "The Conservators shall not grant any licences in respect of the rights of the lord of the manor in relation to the golf courses or mineral extraction."
  • "The Conservators may make, alter or repeal byelaws for the regulation and administration of the Forest."
  • "The Conservators may regulate the speed of vehicles on any road on the Forest, other than adopted public roads."
  • "The maximum fines that the Conservators may impose are £100 on conviction and £20 per day that an offence continues."
  • "The Conservators shall acquire by purchase, exchange, lease, gift or otherwise any land within or outside the forest, and hold such land as part of the Forest."
  • "The Conservators may sell, let or mortgage any land held by them."
  • "No assembly of more than one hundred persons shall take place without prior consent from the Conservators."
  • "The County Council shall pay to the Conservators any amount by which the annual audited expenditure exceeds their income, so long as the expenditure does not exceed the estimates approved by the County Council."
  • "The rates levied by the Conservators upon the owners of rights of common on the Forest shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State."
  • "A right or privilege of playing cricket or other games is reserved for local inhabitants on recreation grounds at Nutley, Chelwood Gate and Forest Row."
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