Fate of commons to be decided

Date: Monday 3rd December 2018

THE fate of three areas of common land in Eden which are subject to "Army land grab" plans will be decided at a meeting of Cumbria County Council's development control and regulation committee in Kendal on Thursday.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) wants to deregister the areas in order to "safeguard" the future of its Warcop training area.

It is recommended that the applications in relation to Hilton, Burton and Warcop fells are granted, but that the application in relation to Murton Fell only be granted in respect of that part which lies to the east of the boundary of the so-called danger area.

In relation to the area — known as Area Victor Dry Training Area — the recommendation is that it should be refused and thus remain on the register of common land, in line with the inspector's findings following a public inquiry, which was held to examine the three applications which relate to 4,500 hectares.

In 2003, more than £7 million was paid out to the commoners by the Secretary of State to extinguish their grazing rights. However, despite having previously given an assurance to the Friends of the Lake District that the MoD would never seek to deregister the Hilton, Murton and Warcop commons — they are now seeking to do just that.

Cumbria County Council's assistant director for economy and environment, Angela Jones, states in her report: "The inspector has concluded that the Ministry of Defence control of access and activities within the danger area did constitute the area being 'occupied', and thus the land could not be considered to be waste land of a manor at that time.

"In contrast, lower levels of activity and no restrictions to access in Area Victor did not constitute the area being occupied, and so this area remained waste land of a manor."

The MoD applications received 49 objections, including one from the Friends of the Lake District.

Jan Darrall, policy officer at Friends of the Lake District, said: "We are shocked and saddened for the precedent that this recommendation sets and for the future of all of our common land.

"We are deeply concerned about the outlook for Warcop, Hilton and Murton commons as there will now be very few restraints on the MoD there."