Updated: 30 May 2023
The Lake District National Park Authority is seeking a long-term leaseholder for its land at Glenridding Common in the Ullswater Valley. This change will not affect its public access or environmental protections, instead it will create a positive investment in the management of the landscape and for everyone who enjoys this part of the National Park.
Since 2017 the Authority has successfully leased the land to the John Muir Trust charity, who have actively conserved and managed the common, improving the environmental quality of the land. In 2020 we held a consultation to consider the future leasing of Glenridding Common, taking in the views of communities, commoners and other stakeholders. This led to Members agreeing to progress a long term lease through an open market tender process. The common is being marketed through Davis and Bowring, and includes a series of clauses to protect and conserve the land and everyone who uses and enjoys it.
Once the tender process has been drawn to a close, any bids which have been received will be initially assessed by Lake District National Park Authority officers and representatives from the Foundation for Common Land. A short list may be prepared where there is more than one successful bidder, they will then be interviewed by a panel, representing mixed specialisms from the LDNPA. The final recommendations will then be brought back to the Authority Members for their final agreement on the leasehold disposal.
As a National Park Authority we have a duty to ensure we fully explore all options for managing the land we own, which amounts to just under four per cent of the Lake District. We must also ensure livelihoods are protected and the land is safeguarded for the future. However, as a public body with limited resources, we recognise there may be alternative organisations or bodies that could continue to improve and enhance the special qualities of the land.
In September 2014 we invited a wide range of organisations, landowners and other stakeholders to a meeting where we shared our plans to review all our property holdings in the National Park. Following this, we welcomed approaches from organisations, including the John Muir Trust, who wished to discuss specific properties.
This led to the John Muir Trust taking a three-year lease to manage Glenridding Common from June 2017 to 2020, following a three-month consultation with commoners, the community, parish council and farming groups. This lease was extended following further consultation and we are now seeking a long-term leaseholder on the area of land which we own.
Any future new leaseholder would need to recognise the cultural heritage of the common, including the unique farming practices of commoning, as one of the key Outstanding Universal Values of the World Heritage Site status.
The concentration of common land and unique farming heritage are special qualities of the Lake District. As a registered common, farmers with Common Rights have a right to graze the land. These rights are protected by law and therefore the two commoners who currently graze would continue to do so.
Glenridding Common benefits from the highest environmental designations as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in addition to being within a national park. These protections would remain in place and a change of management would not affect the status of the common.
Upland sheep farming is part of the Lake District’s rich cultural farming heritage. The collaborative management of common land by commoners is protected by law as well as being recognised as one of the Outstanding Universal Values of the Lake District’s status as a World Heritage Site. In addition there is a roll-over Higher Level Stewardship scheme in place which sets out management requirements under Natural Englands’ guidance for the common.
Our approach, set out in the Lake District National Park Partnership’s plan, is to secure the right balance of land use, in the right place, working with communities, farmers, land owners and managers. For Glenridding Common, this means protecting the culture of hill farming and commons management, whilst improving the environment to deliver additional benefits such as flood risk reduction, access and recreation. Any new leaseholder with responsibility for the common, would be required to work with other stakeholders to secure this. This aspect is set out as a requirement in the tender application document, which forms part of the bidding process for the long leasehold interest.
Like many public bodies the National Park Authority is under considerable financial pressures and has many competing demands for resources. Over recent years we would not have been able to match the financial contribution or dedicated officer time that the John Muir Trust has put in and this is not likely to change over the coming years.
We have a duty to consider whether an alternative organisation could manage and improve Glenridding Common, whilst ensuring livelihoods are protected.
An alternative leaseholder would result in a cost and labour saving to the Lake District National Park Authority by not managing the land. Savings would be invested elsewhere within the National Park, including park management resources.
Glenridding Common is on the western side of Ullswater in the east of the Lake District National Park. The National Park Authority has owned and managed Glenridding Common since 1977.
The area in question is approximately 2,042 acres (826 Ha)
The property includes the summit of Helvellyn along with Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, however it does not include the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Greenside Mine, which will continue to be managed directly by the National Park Authority.
We are currently exploring a transfer of ownership with the National Trust of the 431 acres jointly owned with the National Trust. This is separate to the current proposal to seek a long-term leaseholder for the 2,042 acre lot.
Consultation with stakeholders took place in 2020 regarding extending the lease to John Muir Trust, and we liaised again in 2022, exploring the options. We have engaged with the graziers on the common, Parish Council and representatives from the farming community, as well as national organisations.
During the course of the 2020 consultation exercise other parties came forward to express an interest in purchasing Glenridding Common. The open market tender process gives all interested parties the opportunity to take forward management of the land
The John Muir Trust has leased Glenridding Common since 2017. The Trust recognises the unique cultural heritage of Glenridding Common and has indicated a long-term aspiration for caring for the land.
During the Trust’s lease period at Glenridding Common it has:
John Muir Trust has outlined future priorities as:
A land management plan in currently in place as part of the existing lease, this is reviewed with the LDNPA on a regular basis.
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