The Foundation for Common Land is dismayed that Cumbria County Council has approved the deregistration of ~ 3230 ha of common land owned by the Ministry of Defence at Warcop. The silver lining is that through our efforts, and those of other objectors, 23% of the total area (970 ha) has been saved from deregistration.
Julia Aglionby, Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land, said,“We recognise that the County Councillors had little choice except to follow the recommendation of the Inspector given the legal complexities of this case and the narrowness of the tests for assessing the application. Our complaint is there was no public interest test required as part of the process which seems extraordinary given common land is considered of immense value to our nation for recreation, natural and cultural heritage. The Ministry of Defence did not have to justify why they needed to deregister the common land, instead the Inquiry centred on whether the land could still be considered as Waste of the Manor.”
There are three tests to qualify as waste of the manor; land has to be open, uncultivated and unoccupied. The Ministry of Defence’s case was based on two arguments; firstly that the granting of grazing licences meant the land was now occupied and secondly that the control of access through the Danger Area by-laws constitutes occupation. The inspector did accept the second point but not the first. This is why the Inspector recommends that the land in the Danger Area is deregistered but not the land known as Area Victor which
is outside the Danger Area. Area Victor at ~970 ha comprises approximately 70% of Murton Common. We are delighted that the Inspector recognised the strength of the evidence we presented on the grazing levels, low rents paid and nature of the licences demonstrated that the licences did not constitute “occupation” so saving 970 ha (2400 acres) from deregistration. We thank the Inspector, Mr Alan Evans, for the manner in which he conducted the Inquiry. We will with other objectors be reviewing the Inspector’s report and deciding
whether there is a case to challenge the decision on legal grounds by Judicial Review.