Common grazing comes under threat

The national framework of commons will gradually be destroyed if farmers are prevented from selling common grazing rights separately from their land when selling their farms.

It will also leave a serious under-grazing problem on blocks of hill land left isolated and un-stocked the Federation of Cumbria Commoners said after last week’s initial deliberation by the House of Lords as it starts to examine the Commons Bill.

Current legislation permits a farmer to sell his farm and enclosed land to one purchaser and his common rights to another if he wishes.

But the Commons Bill is proposing to change this.

Cumbria farmer Michael Wilson, chairman of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners, says the local link between rights and enclosed land must be maintained.

“There can be considerable management difficulties for common land when some rights holders have no contact with the common and those who manage it.

“Yet ironically the Bill in its present form, by placing a near total ban on severance, will inevitably increase rather than decrease the number of uninvolved right holders.”

The Cumbria federation believes the Bill will lead to a loss of the critical mass that is essential for a grazed common to function.

“Any existing concerns about over-grazing can be dealt with through the cross-compliance requirement for Single Payment Scheme or environmental agreements; future problems caused by under-grazing will not be dealt with so easily.”