MoD ac­cused of land grab over fir­ing range plan for Cum­bria

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Nazia Parveen

Cum­brian vil­lagers have ac­cused the Min­istry of De­fence of at­tempt­ing a “land grab” af­ter a pro­posal to turn com­mon land into a fir­ing range.

A pub­lic in­quiry has been launched over plans to re­move the com­mon land sta­tus from an area of moor­land.

Vil­lagers be­lieve trans­fer­ring own­er­ship of the area to the Bri­tish army will leave farm­ers un­able to graze a ma­jor part of the Pen­nines.

The tak­ing of com­mon land into pri­vate own­er­ship is a con­tro­ver­sial prac­tice and led to the cre­ation of 19th­cen­tury conservation move­ments in­clud­ing the Na­tional Trust.

This is the first time since 1914 that the MoD has at­tempted to take over a piece of land des­ig­nated as an en­clo­sure. It has ap­plied to “dereg­is­ter” 4,500 hectares of com­mon land near War­cop Train­ing Area. A 1965 act of par­lia­ment ruled that all com­mons and vil­lage greens be listed on a reg­is­ter, and dereg­is­tra­tion would, ac­cord­ing to the Open Spa­ces So­ci­ety, which op­poses the plan, trans­fer own­er­ship of the land to the MoD.

Dur­ing the in­quiry in Ken­dal, MoD bar­ris­ters lined up against the Open Spa­ces So­ci­ety, the Foun­da­tion for Com­mon Land, the Cum­bria Fed­er­a­tion of Com­mons, the Friends of the Lake District and the Hil­ton Com­mon­ers.

Ju­lia Aglionby, from the Foun­da­tion for Com­mon Land, who pre­sented a sub­mis­sion against the plans, said the law dis­cussed dur­ing the two-day hear­ing was “un­be­liev­ably com­plex”.

“The MOD have ef­fec­tively said they don’t have to jus­tify what they are do­ing, they are just go­ing to do it.

“This is com­pletely un­nec­es­sary and they have come up with these found­less rea­sons for why they need to dereg­is­ter com­mon land. Only 3% of Eng­land is com­mon land and it goes back to the heart of peo­ple hav­ing ac­cess to coun­try­side. It is a very emo­tional is­sue where ef­fec­tively poor peo­ple have been thrown off the lands since the 16th cen­tury and now we are hav­ing a 21st cen­tury ver­sion of this.”

An MoD spokesman said: “We are not propos­ing to re­strict pub­lic ac­cess in any way and have no plans to sell the land. We have ap­plied to dereg­is­ter land at War­cop Train­ing Area to safe­guard the MoD’s abil­ity to train.”

The in­quiry has been ad­journed un­til 30 Oc­to­ber.

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