Dear Sir / Madam

A  Council in the South West undertook an HLS agreement with Natural England in April 2011.  Shortly afterwards they received a visit from a local RPA inspector. After the inspection the Council  were subject to a 3% reduction in their HLS payments due to the presence of injurious weeds. In addition, all of the graziers and those who include the common land as part of their Single Payments Scheme were also docked 3%.

The Land is privately owned, The Council manages the land and the graziers have no formal agreement with regard to the management of the common. The current byelaws prevent unauthorised persons from cutting material on the common.

  1. Are the RPA right in docking the graziers SPS?
  2. Who has the ultimate responsibility to manage the weeds on the common, The Council, the graziers or both?

Many Thanks for considering the enclosed.

Mike Plumb



Health Warning: This response is a general response and does not consitute professional advice. It should not be relied on specific advice should be sought if required.

Dear Mike,

This is a really difficult area as the commoner rights are for their animals to eat the vegetation therefore they have no formal legal rights for weed control that remains with the owner or the person to whom they have delegated it (perhaps the Council in this case?). That said by claiming SPS commoners are agreeing to abide by the GAEC which includes injurious week control. If I was a grazier I might write to the RPA saying that they as commoners do not have the legal right to control the weeds and that they should not have penalties applied as they are not responsible for the breach.

I note the Council has an HLS on the common, I would expect weed control to be part of the small print for any HLS and therefore it would be the Council's responsibility. Has the owner delegated management control to the Council? I would expect this to be the case if the Council has entered into an HLS. Is the Council receiving HLS money they can use to control the weeds?

Can the Council and the commoners get together to find a solution?

Hope this helps.