New Forest commoners face grant change challenges

land advice

Published Tuesday 28 October 2014

Changes to payments that farmers receive to help them rear animals or grow crops are posing unique challenges for New Forest commoners.

The Single Payment Scheme - part of the European-wide Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - is being replaced, and the New Forest’s commoners and farmers are turning to the New Forest Land Advice Service to help them comply with new rules.

Commoners make use of ancient rights attached to their property to turn out livestock onto the open areas of the New Forest. Due to this unusual method of rearing and managing livestock, the new criteria pose some rare challenges in the National Park.

Many commoners own or rent small parcels of land, below the minimum amount needed to claim payments, as they mainly use the common land of the New Forest to graze their stock. Some also don’t have access to broadband or computers to complete the application process, which is due to move online in 2015.  

The Land Advice Service is helping by:

  • Advising on how the use of common land can be taken into account when assessing a commoner’s right to payments
  • Giving payments advice over the phone and in person to commoners and farmers
  • Running drop-in sessions with talks from agricultural experts
  • Providing internet access to those without computers.

New Forest Land Advisor Rhys Morgan said: ‘By helping commoners to apply for their grants, the Land Advice Service is supporting the ancient tradition of commoning which, through grazing by free-roaming animals, shapes the unique landscape of the New Forest.

‘The advice also helps farmers and commoners manage their land in an environmentally-friendly way, benefiting the National Park’s unique mix of wildlife and habitats.’

The Land Advice Service works alongside a range of organisations to support farmers and commoners, including the Verderers, National Farmers Union, New Forest Commoners Defence Association and the Rural Payments Agency.

Simon Lunniss from the Rural Payments Agency, who spoke at a recent drop-in session at Lyndhurst Community Centre, organised by the New Forest Land Advice Service said: ‘We are working hard to make sure the new CAP is as simple as possible and to minimise the burden on farmers and other applicants through working closely in partnership with stakeholders, such as the New Forest Land Advice Service.

‘I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk to around 100 commoners about the reforms taking place, and I hope that this, and the continuing good work of the New Forest Land Advice Service, will ensure the transition period is as smooth as possible.

‘We will also keep up-to-date information available through the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/cap-reform.’

Young commoner Oliver Cook from Brockenhurst, who attended the event, said: ‘I thought that this was a genuinely useful event, as I was able to get an idea of how the new scheme will be tailored to the New Forest.

‘The payments we receive have been extremely important to nearly all of the Forest's commoning businesses in recent years, allowing investment into holdings and infrastructure. It is vital therefore that commoners understand how the new scheme will operate and what we need to do to meet its requirements.’

If you would like advice on CAP reform in the New Forest please contact Rhys Morgan on 01590 646688 or email rhys.morgan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

The Land Advice Service is funded by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the Verderers.

-ends-

Notes to photo editor:

Michael Dolbear, tenant farmer at Leygreen Farm, Beaulieu, receives advice from Julie Stubbs and Rhys Morgan from New Forest Land Advice Service.

Notes to editor:

About Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

CAP is a system of agricultural subsidies and programmes that operates in the European Union (EU). CAP covers farming, environmental measures and rural development.

The Single Payment Scheme (SPS) is part of CAP and is the main agricultural subsidy scheme in the EU. It started in 2005 and will end in 2014.

In England, SPS is administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will replace SPS in 2015.

Go to www.gov.uk/cap-reform to find out more.

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 300 businesses.

The service offers:

  • A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley
  • Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups
  • Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area
  • A small grant scheme which can support capital works which benefit the landscape, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email enquiries@nfladvice.org.uk.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more

Media Contact:

Matt Stroud, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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