“We are shocked and saddened for the precedent that this recommendation sets and for the future of all of our common land.”

Cumbria County Council is likely to agree to the Ministry of Defence’s application to deregister Hilton, Murton and Warcop Commons at its Development Committee Meeting on December 6th in Kendal, despite the MoD’s previous undertaking that they would never seek to do so.

This undertaking was given at an inquiry in 2001 into the MoD’s request to compulsory purchase all the common rights on Warcop, Hilton and Murton Commons. This move was to allow them more flexibility in their training and to intensify their use of the land.

The Inspector appointed to conduct a recent inquiry held by Cumbria County Council into the MOD’s applications to deregister these Commons has recommended in favour of the MOD.

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.

“The inquiry was complex but the consequences of deregistration are simple enough and illustrate why we have fought so hard to oppose this application.

  • “Access: The three commons of Warcop, Hilton and Murton amount to 3% of Cumbria’s common land. A decision to deregister these commons puts their cultural heritage at risk and gives the MOD discretion to deny local use. We believe that our rich common land should remain for all to enjoy.
  • “Protection: The land will lose protection against encroachment and development since works on common land require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in addition to any planning permission.
  • Heritage: It will bring to an end hundreds of years of tradition of upland communing. The farming community, which used to have vital grazing rights over this land, will now be denied any opportunity in future to graze their stock there.”

The application will be presented to the Development Control and Regulation Committee on Thursday 6th December for consideration, but opponents expect the Committee to adopt the Inspector’s recommendation to remove common land status from the historic commons of Warcop, Hilton and Murton (a small area of Murton Common called ‘Area Victor’ will be excluded from the Committee’s decision on 6th December and will retain its common land status).

Cumbria County Council as Commons Registration appointed Alan Evans from Kings Chambers, Leeds to conduct the Inquiry. The MoD, led by QC David Elvin had a six strong team. The lead opponents were the Open Spaces Society who appointed QC George Laurence. Other objectors included Friends of the Lake District, Foundation for Common Land, Federation of Cumbrian Commoners, Hilton Commoners Association and Murton Parish Council.