Restarting the process to establish a Commons Council for Cumbria

Brexit is a game changer for agriculture. The government of the United Kingdom will have to develop its own policy towards farming and rural land use to replace the Common Agricultural Policy. If commoning is to remain viable in this post-Brexit world, then commoners need to have a voice in the design of new agricultural policy and systems of payment. We believe a commons council for Cumbria is now more necessary than ever. It will give us better chance of getting heard and help us maintain the commons and promote good standards of livestock husbandry.

Commons councils are statutory organisations - this means they’re recognised by law, and can make legally binding rules for how people use common land. These legally binding rules can help if commoners, landowners and others with an interest in the common can’t agree about how to manage the land. They’re run by council members who are elected by commoners, with seats on the council for landowners and others who have a legal interest in the common.

A commons council is responsible for:

  • Managing the agricultural activities on the common
  • Leasing, licensing and transfer of rights of common
  • How commoners use their common rights

Commons councils can also:

  • Provide a stronger coordinated voice for commoners
  • Be consulted about proposals for the common
  • Prepare and maintain a register of grazing rights
  • Establish and maintain boundaries
  • Remove unlawful boundaries and other encroachments
  • Remove animals illegally grazing on the common

Kick-starting the commons council process again

In 2011 we developed a proposal to establish a Commons Council for Cumbria, consulted widely and organised a vote. There were enough Commoners’ Associations who votes in favour to warrant applying to Defra to establish a commons council. We applied and our proposal was accepted. But the timing was not right.  We knew that the priority of most Commoners’ Associations was to negotiate and secure entry into the Upland Entry and Higher Level Stewardship rather than get involved in starting a commons council.  So we pressed the pause button.

The Brexit result has changed everything and we now want to take up where we left off. We have discussed this with Defra who are supporting us.

We need a response from commoners

We have written round to the Chairman of 75 Commoners' Assocations to offer them the opportunity to take part in stablishing a commons council. We have asked them to assess whether there is interest among their members for a commons council in Cumbria.

If we find there is enough interest we will be holding public meetings for commoners in January to explain the process and what we have to do next.

If any commoners has questions about a commons council, please feel free to e-mail viv@cumbriacommoners.org.uk

For more information download the leaflet

Also see Farmers Guardian article