Go-ahead for next steps to create a Cumbria Commons Council

The Federation has got funding to take the commons council forward

Many of you will know that this has been a long road with slow progress at times but we now have Defra support and a fresh momentum for taking things to the next stage – and we need your help to create a Commons Council for Cumbria.

In 2011, commoners and landowners from 15 of the largest commons in Cumbria voted by a substantial majority to establish a Commons Council  with the powers to make legally binding rules for all those using the common for agricultural purposes. The work of developing the Council then came to a halt as we had to look for the funds to progress to the next stage. 

We are pleased to announce that we now have the funding to complete our submission for a Commons Council to the Secretary of State. However, we need to make sure that the commons associations who voted in favour still want to be part of the Commons Council. We also want to encourage other local commons associations to come on board, as all commons are eligible join the Council.

  1. If your local commons association voted in favour, we will be in touch again very soon to develop that initial commitment to be part of a new Commons Council.
  2. If you were unsure about supporting the establishment of a Commons Council, we will update you on the developments and we very much hope that you’ll add your local commons association to the first wave of associations aiming to create something new, effective and useful for commoners in Cumbria.
  3. If your local commons association didn’t take part in the first round of consultation but you are interested in being part of a Commons Council for Cumbria, please speak to Viv Lewis Tel 01931 713335 as soon as possible.  She can send you information materials that will help explain what is involved.

A summary of the anticipated benefits of a Commons Council

What is a Commons Council?

Commons councils are statutory organisations established under the Commons Act 2006 by the Secretary of State. The legislation is not compulsory and a Council cannot be imposed on a common. In Cumbria, a Council can only be established where a number of Common Land (CL) units decide to join the Council. Each CL unit must demonstrate that there is substantial support from those with legal rights to join the Council. We are at this stage in Cumbria as 15 commons associations (or CLs) have indicated a vote in favour.

 A Council is a democratic organisation. The Council’s eventual Board members (decision makers) will be elected by the active graziers, non-graziers and land owners from those commons who have joined the Council.  The Council will then be governed by a standard constitution provided by Defra, with implementation shaped by local practice and agreement.

What are the benefits of a Commons Council?

The main benefit is that a Council can establish binding rules, something that cannot be put in place by a local commons association.

Other benefits include:

  • Offer a stronger voice for negotiations, in particular, in respect of agri-environment agreements.
  • Legal recognition by Government and other external agencies.
  • Statutory powers to enforce agreed rules
  • Powers to purchase or long-term lease grazing rights should there be a need to do so
  • Potential to pool resources to aid management of the common, e.g. machinery, facilities and volunteers.
  • Longer term security for right holders
  • Improved relations between graziers in a clearer framework
  • Better administration of the common
  • Better accountability of commoners and other legal interests
  • Ability to liaise with official bodies/organisations in a more unified manner.
  • Potential to attract additional funding and raise money to allow for improvement management, e.g. through grants or an annual membership fee.

For more detailed information on how the proposed Cumbria Commons Council will work please download this document