A farming organisation and a parish council have raised objections to a proposal by the Lake District National Park Authority to give the exclusive option to buy Glenridding Common to conservation charity the John Muir Trust.
The LDNPA first leased the common — which extends to nearly 1,000 hectares and includes Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain — to the trust in 2017 and now plans to offer the charity a further three-year lease, with the option to buy it at some future date. No price has yet been suggested.
However, Patterdale Parish Council believe they, as representatives of the local community, should be given the chance to buy the common, while the Foundation for Common Land fears the John Muir Trust could put its own objectives — particularly a focus on “wilding” upland areas — ahead of the interests of farmers who graze stock there.
Rob Shepherd, chairman of the parish council, said the common had been sold to the LDNPA by a major landowner in 1978 for just £2,000 so the park authority could look after the area, and that if the authority was unable or unwilling to do so then the council should be given the chance to take over the task.
“Glenridding Common is 25 per cent of the parish, and the parish council should be allowed to buy it, not the John Muir Trust,” he said. “If the park authority comes up with a reasonable price, we will raise the money.”
The Foundation for Common Land has objected to the LDNPA’s proposal because it believes the interests of the common are best protected by it remaining in the public ownership of the authority.
According to the foundation, the charitable purpose of the John Muir Trust is “to conserve and protect wild places and other elements of nature for the benefit of the public” — which does not imply a commitment to the farmed or managed landscape of areas like Glenridding Common.
It says the sale of the common to the John Muir Trust could risk the future of the outstanding universal value of part of the Lake District world heritage site as there would not be a commitment to secure and support pastoral grazing systems.
Federation chairwoman Julia Aglionby said: “We are aware that the JMT has an excellent track record in terms of generating funds for, and delivery of, effective management of footpaths and wild places in Scotland. The question is, given their charitable objectives, are they an appropriate organisation to own Glenridding?”
She also questioned whether the JMT is committed to the future of commoning, and said that if the park authority considers it necessary to dispose of Glenridding Common then it should sell it to somebody who will nurture the commoning tradition.
She added: “Our view is that Glenridding Common is best remaining in the ownership of the LDNPA, and if it has to be sold then any new owner should have organisational purposes that balance the farming, nature, culture and recreation objects of the site.”