A campaign has been launched to limit motorists to 40mph where roads cross common land.

The Open Spaces Society is urging ministers to introduce a speed limit on unfenced commons. Where a common is close to a town or village, any existing limit should be extended to include it.

The society says this is a better alternative to fencing in common land. General Secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “Commons are important for their history, wildlife and opportunities for quiet recreation.  Too many are now crossed by busy roads. 

“In order to reintroduce grazing animals to benefit the habitat for wildlife and public access, the owners or managers (often a conservation body such as the National Trust or a wildlife trust) have to erect fencing to separate the stock from the speeding traffic.

“We should much prefer the traffic to be slowed than the common to be fenced: fencing is an eyesore and a physical and psychological barrier to public access. 

“People should be able to enter the common at any point from the road, in accordance with their right under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and other legislation which gives the public the right to roam on commons.  Even if gates and stiles are provided, the fencing is still a severe barrier to access.”

40mph schemes have already been set up in the New Forest and Dartmoor National Park.

Kate said: “A universal speed-limit would tell people that commons are special — historic, unaltered landscapes where animals may graze and the public may wander in peace.”