3rd December 2018

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, 

“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 ourselves, Foundation for Common Land, Federation of Cumbrian Commoners, Hilton Commoners Association and Murton Parish Council.


18th October 2018: Inquiry to reconvene on 30th October 2018

The Warcop Inquiry reconvenes on 30th October for four days. This is to discuss the second issue, namely are the Warcop commons still waste of the lord of the manor? The MOD are arguing that they are not. We, together with partners the Open Spaces Society, the Foundation for Common Land, and the Hilton Commoners are arguing they are no different in character to most of our upland commons and remain waste of the lord of the manor. Proof follows:

Further evidence of the Friends of the Lake District in relation to the issue of Waste of Lord of the Manor (pdf)


8th October 2018: Online Petition

'Prevent the MOD removing Cumbria fells from the Commons Register'.

Despite an undertaking by the Secretary of State, made after a public enquiry in 2001, that the fells would remain on the Commons Register in perpetuity. The MOD are attempting the biggest LAND GRAB of common land since the 1800's. The Fells in question, Murton Fell CL76, Hilton Fell CL27 and Burton and Warcop Fell CL122 form part of the Warcop MOD training area.

In 2003 the MOD purchased the grazing rights from the commoners. Part of the agreement reached was that the fells would remain on the Commons Register. Now they have cancelled that part of the agreement. Our argument is that it is not legally possible to cancel part of a multiparty agreement, without the other parties consenting, which they do not.

Sign this petition>


Warcop Common update 25 Sept 2018

In 2001 an inquiry was held into the desire of the Ministry of Defence (M0D) to compulsory purchase all the common rights on Warcop, Hilton and Murton Commons to enable them to have more flexibility in their training and intensify use. The MoD also gave an undertaking that they would never seek to deregister the land as common land. That is exactly what they are now trying to do and something we, and other partners strongly oppose.
Cumbria County Council as Commons Registration Authority held a Public Inquiry to consider the applications in early September. They 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 ourselves, Foundation for Common Land, Federation of Cumbrian Commoners, Hilton Commoners Association and Murton Parish Council. You can read our skeleton argument below:

We are strongly opposed to this huge area being lost as common land.
This is a very complex and legal issue. The Inspector can only hear arguments that are relevant to the legislation under which CCC have to determine the applications. So although many of us feel the MoD are going back on their previous undertakings and this is causing a lack of trust, etc, he cannot take account of these arguments. He was however very generous in that he was willing to listen to all evidence, even if he could only take account of some of it!

The Inquiry focused on two key issues. Firstly the legal ‘power’ issue. Does the legislation give the MoD the power to make this application given the nature of the vesting deed which was to extinguish rights (not purchase the soil). The MoD are saying that because all the commons rights were extinguished by a Vesting deed on 31st March 2003 the land then ceased to be common land and they want it to be removed from the Register. The Open Spaces Society, ourselves and others argue that the Vesting Deed only related to the extinguishment of the rights and nothing else, certainly nothing pertaining to the land and therefore the applications should fail.

However, if the MoD win their argument, another issue comes into play and that is whether the land remains waste of the Lord of the Manor. For land to be deregistered it must both have no rights of common and no longer be waste of the manor (unoccupied, open and uncultivated).

The Inquiry will reconvene on the 30th October to consider the Waste of the Manor Issue. We are now working hard with partners to gather our evidence together on this issue.
The Inspector will make his recommendations to Cumbria County Council, who need to make a decision before 14th December 2018 when the four year "transitional period" for updating the registers ends.
The Inquiry has had significant press coverage in both national papers and on the television.


Update 23 August 2018

Cumbria County Council has announced a two day public inquiry into the applications by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deregister Hilton, Murton and Warcop Commons, near Appleby in Westmorland.

These commons represent 3% of the stock of common land in England. 15 years ago the MoD applied to extinguish the common rights over the land to give them more control and flexibility. At that time, they stated categorically that they would not apply to deregister the land as common land. This is now precisely what they have done, with little or no evidence as to why. The applications are strongly opposed by ourselves, the Open Spaces Society (OSS), the Foundation for Common Land, the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners, and the local residents.

The inquiry will take place on 12 – 13 September and will be Barrister led. It will only focus on the legal issues surrounding the applications.  This is very complex and the OSS has engaged their own Barrister to present their case which we support. There are issues of principle at stake here, namely the fact that the applications are completely at odds with Government policy on common land, that the MoD expressly undertook not to deregister the commons, and also that we believe the applications do not meet the legislative requirements.

Read more 

MOD proposal to deregister Warcop, Hilton, Murton and Burton commons

Cumbria Commons face biggest threat since Enclosure movement