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The society is delighted that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has resolved to set up a commons council for Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
There was a public consultation in March and April, and the environment secretary had to be satisfied that there was ‘substantial support’ for the plan. In fact, there was an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, with 195 out of 202 respondents in favour (96 per cent).
This will be the second commons council created under the Commons Act 2006 in England—the first was established for the Brendon Hills in Devon in April 2014.
The council will provide a democratic management structure for the 71 commons registration units on Bodmin Moor. It will authorise those with rights of common to take majority decisions on agricultural matters. This will enable the commons to benefit from environmental stewardship payments. The model for commons councils is based on the pioneering Dartmoor Commoners’ Council, established under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985.
The legal order for the council will come into force on 1 September2015. Then members must be elected to the council, which will come into being on 1 March 2016.
Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘This is a great outcome for Bodmin Moor, which has had a chequered history, with a failed attempt at an Act of Parliament back in the 1990s. This is a much better solution, for the council will ensure that the moor’s special qualities are enhanced, by regulated grazing levels in the interests of landscape, ecology, access and archaeology.
‘The commons make up a significant part of the moor, where we have the right to walk freely and enjoy the beautiful landscape and wide views, the rich archaeology and wildlife. Bodmin Moor is part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty because of its fantastic landscape.
‘The council will also be able to improve the welfare of the stock on the commons. It is required to co-opt a vet to oversee good management.
‘We wish the council the best of luck in its endeavours and give it our full support in its vital work for the Bodmin Moor commons,’ says Kate.