We submitted our response to the BPS Exit scheme consultation. We focused on the sole question about common rights in the consultation. It asks whether farmers who claim BPS on common land should give up their rights if they claim the lump sum. While we like simple questions, this one-size-fits all question doesn’t do it for us. It doesn’t cover the remarkable diversity and complexity of common rights and begs the question does Defra understand commons?
We worry that if not done right this lump sum exit scheme could hasten a clearance of the commons in Cumbria. Any policy that has the possibility of removing sheep from the fells – in this case giving up gazing rights with no proviso that the next person who takes on these rights will graze livestock on the fell – will directly destabilise the integrity of hill farming in our area.
If hefted sheep come off the commons of Cumbria, then there’s no need for commoners. Commoning families know they are temporary custodians of the land and the sheep. They steward the land and sheep for future generations while maintaining and evolving the culture and traditions of the past. But when the sheep go off the fells in large numbers our system of sheep husbandry unique to our commons will collapse. It hasn’t collapsed to date, but the wrong policies are doing untold damage already. This could be another one.
You can read our response here