Amendments to Commons Bill will aid hill farms

The Federation of Cumbria Commoners – which represents 30% of common grazing land in the UK – says the success of its vigorous lobbying for changes to government legislation will contribute towards the long-term viability of the county’s hill farms.

An eleventh-hour decision in the House of Commons by junior DEFRA minister, Barry Gardiner acknowledged the case put by Penrith and Border MP David Maclean concerning the updating of the Commons Register held by relevant county councils.

“Two fundamental flaws in the Commons Bill will be changed,” said Fiona Southern, new secretary to the Federation of Cumbria Commoners.

“The Commons Bill had failed to ensure that the Commons Register, held by county councils, would be updated on the sale of transfer rights.

It had also prohibited the sale of common rights away from the land to which they were attached – even to the commoners on the same common.

“Such a prohibition would have resulted in an ever-increasing number of rights becoming unused and, in time, create a loss to the critical mass of stock that is essential to ensure that a block of common land can function.”

The amendment tabled by Mr Maclean will ensure that an order can be made by DEFRA allowing common rights to be severed from the land to which they are attached in order to be transferred to another grazier on the same common, and that this can be undertaken without the consent of the owner of the common.

Ms Southern said the amendments would make a big difference to the future of hill farms that depend on common grazing.

“This should ensure Cumbria’s commons continue to be grazed and that our upland habitats and landscape can be maintained.”