High Court ruling could cause havoc on common land

A High Court ruling on common grazing rights could cause havoc among livestock keepers, a lawyer has said.

Although DEFRA, landowners and commoners rely on details recorded in the Registers of Common Land, the court ruling means these can no longer be regarded as reliable.

With at least 574,000ha of common land in England and Wales, and more than 24,000 rights entries in the registers, the judgment could cause havoc, claimed solicitor Eric Cowsill, who acted for the claimant.

“This judgment introduces doubt into an area that had been thought to be clear. If the judgment is allowed to stand, it will have far-reaching and sometimes disastrous consequences for farmers and landowners.

“The ruling could have a very serious impact on the viability of some farming businesses where grazing rights are found to be reduced. It brings into doubt some of the payments on which farmers have to rely, and of course, brings the question of the value of their land into question.”

Mr Cowsill said he would be seeking to appeal the ruling, potentially taking it straight to the supreme court. “It is a point of law of considerable importance, and affects anybody across the country who has common rights.”