United Utilities withdraws controversial Lake District fencing scheme

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We are delighted that United Utilities (UU) has withdrawn its controversial application for 10 kilometres of fencing on common land above Thirlmere in the heart of the Lake District National Park. A public inquiry was due to open on 17 November.

UU wants to carry out further consultation about its plans in the hope of identifying viable alternatives to a fence.


The Open Spaces Society, Friends of the Lake District, the Ramblers, the Foundation for Common Land, the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners and the Wainwright Society were among the many objectors to the scheme which threatened to degrade the wilderness of the national park. UU claimed the fence was needed to reduce the grazing and prevent contamination of the water caused by erosion from overgrazing.

Because the fence was across common land, UU had applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are greatly relieved that UU has withdrawn its application as we requested, and we welcome the opportunity for further discussions in the hope of finding an acceptable solution.

‘While of course UU must be able to guarantee high-quality water from Thirlmere, we believe that this can be achieved without fencing the common, damaging this priceless landscape, and risking the Lake District’s impending World Heritage Status. UU needs to carry out more research and gather more data. The fencing application was premature.

Adds our chairman, Graham Bathe: ‘Proposals which affect common land are often extremely complex, because of the unique nature of commons and the many interests involved. The society was one of many organisations which pioneered a consultation process for the management of commons, A Common Purpose, which has the support of the Department for Environment and the Planning Inspectorate. A Common Purpose advocates collaborative work to reduce objections and the need for wasteful public inquiries. UU failed to follow this in its application, but now it will do so.

‘It has also recognised the benefit of adopting the approach in Better Outcomes on Upland Commons, promoted by the Foundation for Common Land in the Lake District and elsewhere. This calls for all interested parties to work together to find good solutions.

‘The historic management of these commons, right from medieval times, was focused on a principle called “Good Neighbourhood”. This means that parties should work together for the good of the whole community, without asserting that their interests should over-ride those of others. We shall play our part in re-creating this Good Neighbourhood, working towards a collaborative solution, from which everyone can benefit and these magnificent fells protected for all to enjoy,’ Graham concludes.

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