New Forest commoners receive expert support

land advice

Published Thursday 9 July 2015

Commoners in the New Forest will receive much-needed financial support to continue their ancient way of life thanks to help from local land advisers.

The New Forest Land Advice Service has run sessions for more than 200 commoners over the past six months to help them apply for crucial funding from the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). The BPS is designed to support agriculture as part of the European-wide Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and replaced a previous scheme at the beginning of this year.

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, applying to the BPS for assistance is often more complicated than for those farming on their own land.

Most 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 as a giant ‘farmer’s field’ to graze their stock. Some also don’t have access to broadband or computers to complete the application process, making it difficult for them to complete the online-only forms.  

The Land Advice Service has helped by:

  • advising on how the use of common land can be taken into account when assessing a commoner’s right to payments
  • giving advice over the phone and in person to commoners and farmers
  • organising an information event  with the National Farmers Union and the Rural Payments Agency to help 200 commoners understand the new rules of the scheme
  • providing internet access and IT support to those without computers.

New Forest Land Advice Service Manager Julie Melin-Stubbs said: ‘We are funded through the Verderers’ New Forest Higher Level Stewardship Scheme to support commoning and offering advice on the BPS is one way we can do this.

‘The team will be available to help with applications in future years. In the meantime we would like to encourage commoners to contact us for any other support they may need with land management, understanding agricultural regulations or sourcing grants for environmental enhancements on their holdings.’

Commoners Richard and Caroline Stride, from Lyndhurst, said: ‘As a commoning family, we struggled with the new BPS application forms. Without the assistance of the Land Advice Service we would have found it extremely difficult to complete our claims with any confidence. We thank everyone from the Land Advice Service very much for their help.’

Commoner Anthony Pasmore, from Hale, said: ‘The Land Advice Service was extremely helpful to me in interpreting the complicated new subsidy system introduced this year by the Rural Payments Agency, as well as putting me in touch with other commoners who I could work with for mutual benefit.’

Dominic May, Official Verderer, said: ‘The unique beauty of our New Forest landscape has been created and is maintained by livestock grazing. It is therefore important that the Verderers support the preservation of this ancient form of pastoral farming by funding the Land Advice Service to provide guidance to commoners.’

Jonathan Gerrelli, Head Agister at the Verderers, said: ‘The Land Advice Service was a great help to all commoners, giving support in applying for the new Basic Payment Scheme this year.’

If you would like advice on applying to the Basic Payment Scheme in future years please contact Rhys Morgan on 01590 646688 or email rhys.morgan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

The New Forest 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 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 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is part of CAP and is the main agricultural subsidy scheme in the EU. The BPS replaced the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) on 1 January 2015.

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

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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