Glenridding Common Consultation public responses

Reponses from groups, organisations and charities:


The RSPB is very supportive of the John Muir Trust being offered the chance to purchase the site, and if this doesn’t succeed, a continuation of the lease.

Foundation for Common Land

I am writing on behalf of the Foundation for Common Land to respond to the proposal by the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) that the John Muir Trust (JMT) should be allowed, through a new lease, the exclusive option to buy Glenridding Common with no open process to test the market in terms of market value or public interest of its future owner. The Foundation for Common Land is a registered charity whose charitable purpose is:

  • “To conserve for the benefit of the public commoning and the management of common land. To promote the conservation of the physical and natural environment. To conduct research into common land issues. To educate the public in subjects pertaining to commoning and common land”

The future management of Glenridding Common is therefore of concern to us; geographically it sits at the heart of the Helvellyn massif which is key to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site founded on its agropastoral tradition. We are aware that the JMT has an excellent track record in terms of generating funds for, and delivery of effective management of, footpaths and wild places in Scotland. The question is given their charitable objectives are they an appropriate organisation to own Glenridding?

We have over the last three years sought to work closely with the John Muir Trust and were until Autumn 2019 delighted with improving relations particularly through our major project Our Common Cause: Our Upland Commons where the delivery of the John Muir Award to 480 young people from deprived areas is a key part of the programme. The John Muir Award is an excellent programme and we are looking forward to delivering it over the next 3 years.

Where we are though concerned is that the John Muir Trust having been a partner of Our Common Cause for 2 years decided that they did not want to contribute to the Delivery Phase or to be a non cash participating partner and declined to sign the Partnership Document. We are not clear exactly why though it has been reported by one JMT staff member that they are concerned that Our Common Cause is seeking to maintain the status quo with regard commons.

We were disappointed with this perspective; yes common land is a contested space but our aim is to ensure commoning delivers nature rich, culture rich common land.

We are therefore concerned that the JMT are not committed to the future of commoning which in England occurs on many of our wilder places. Members of the LDNPA will be aware only 3% of England is Common Land while 28% of the Lake District National Park is registered common land and one-third of all England’s common land is found in Cumbria.

The LDNPA therefore has a particular responsibility to look after this scarce resource and if they consider it necessary to dispose of the asset should sell it to someone who will nurture the commoning tradition. The Foundation for Common Land therefore questions the wisdom of Members of the Authority disposing of this asset to an organisation whose charitable purposes do not include conserving cultural heritage or agricultural systems or managed landscapes. The JMT’s object as defined in their governing document is “to conserve and protect wild places and other elements of nature for the benefit of the public.” And that is completely legitimate and the JMT do excellent work in many places but the view of the Foundation for Common Land with the information they have at the moment is that the JMT are not suitable as the owner of Glenridding Common in the Lake District WHS.

We therefore object to the inclusion of a right to buy in the new lease. Charitable objects are important because in the end if difficult decisions are required in the future; e.g. balancing of different and competing public benefits in a future Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) then the JMT are obliged by their objects to favour a wilding focused approach.

Our view is that Glenridding Common is best remaining in the ownership of the LDNPA and if it has to be sold then any new owner should have organisational purposes that balance the farming, nature, culture and recreation objects of the site.

We should add we are not against a further, longer, lease to the JMT subject to consent on future ELMS schemes resting with the LDNPA and the continued inclusion of the other clauses included in the original lease. We are more than content to meet to discuss this further.

Federation of Cumbria Commoners (FCC)

I am writing to you on behalf of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners (FCC) , a representative body for commoners in Cumbria, in response to the consultation to grant a new lease to John Muir Trust (JMT) with the inclusion of an exclusive Option Agreement that would grant JMT the future right to purchase the area of land which they occupy should they so wish.

We have given serious consideration to this proposal and conclude we cannot support it. In addition, we object to LDNPA looking to renew JMT’s occupation of the common when the lease expires in October 2020 without a thorough evaluation of their performance. The Federation’s role is to support fell farmers to run resilient businesses that produce livestock and meat, contribute to climate change mitigation, and maintain the balance of the delicate ecosystems found on commons. Pastoral commoning underpins the character of the landscape and is important for the cultural heritage of the Lake District, both fundamental elements of the Lake District WHS.

In our view JMT cannot be a suitable owner of Glenridding common as its charitable activities are not aligned with Lake District WHS status. The Lake District including Glenridding Common is not a wild place, it is a managed landscape. UNESCO recognises the Lake District as “The combined work of nature and human activity has produced a harmonious landscape….”1  We worry that only one out of six of JMT’s charitable purposes mentions working with local communities, the rest focus on conserving and protecting wild places and other elements of nature. The human activity of local farmers and other members of the community currently plays a minor role in their calculus and is likely to continue this way as their new Chief Executive has also been a director of Rewilding Britain. This matters to us, and we believe it should matter to the LDNPA and its Members.

If JMT become owners of Glenridding common they have to ability to influence future Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) on the common. For ELMS to go ahead it must have the owner’s signature. This gives commons owners - far fewer in numbers than rights holders - the power to steer a scheme towards what they want as they can veto the views of the majority. JMT could insist on a wilding focus for the next scheme on the common giving commoners the choice (?) of reluctantly signing up to something they know could undermine pastoral commoning because they need the ELMS money to keep their business afloat, or saying no to a scheme altogether and still undermining their businesses. This should be avoided at all costs.

It is our view that reducing the potential for conflict over the long term and the threat to WHS is worth far more than the one-off sale of an asset. While, we have no reason to doubt “the LDNPA has enjoyed a strong and positive relationship with the JMT, not least because of the regular meetings between us which allow the National Park Authority to ensure that the management practices agreed under the management plan are being adhered to” (from consultation letter 1st July 2020). This is not the case for the commoners. They told us at a meeting held on July 29th, 2020 arranged by the LDNPA and attended by the commoners, their land agent, FCC and FCL, that communications with Pete Barron (JMT) were scarce. They do not know what JMT is doing. They said they are not informed when JMT staff/ volunteers are working on the fell and they are only dimly aware of the management plan. In brief relationships between JMT and the commoners are weak. They also complained that, as far as they are aware, since the ease of lockdown JMT have done nothing to help with the mountains of rubbish left behind by higher than ever numbers of walkers.

It is for reason such as these we do not welcome an automatic renewal of the lease to JMT. We request a thorough independent evaluation of how JMT have performed over the last three years with the results made public before any decisions are made.

Responses from individuals:

As a long term resident…and a regular user of the common, I am writing in support of the renewing of the JMT lease with the option to buy. The common is a unique and ecologically sensitive area of diverse habitats subject to many pressures from erosion, overgrazing, visitor numbers, and climate change. In the past three years of its lease JMT have demonstrated that they have the will and the resources to address and manage these issues while at the same time respecting the  farming community with historical rights of use of the common.  Their ongoing work in surveying and maintaining the juniper and alpine habitats on the common are to be commended, and is an example of something that would not have happened without their stewardship.  It is also clear that in their present economic circumstances, LDNPA have little resources to manage their estate appropriately, and should welcome a tenant who can manage such an iconic area in such a sensitive manner.  If that tenant is then prepared to purchase the property to carry on their work, then LDNPA have even more reason to renew their lease.

We fully support the proposal. Having read the report by the John Muir Trust they have made an impact on the area and should be allowed to continue.

I am in favour of John Muir Trust leasing the Common for another three years with the option to purchase thereafter.

I am all in favour of the JMT extending their lease on Glenridding Common from the LDNP. I think they have done great work in the last few years and I personally think they are much better caretakers of the land than the LDNP. I feel they are about conserving this fantastic area where the plans from the LDNP in the past have been about exploiting it.

My only concern is that the potential sale of the land is only for the JMT and it can't be sold to anyone else. But I would love to see this happen.

I would approve of this proposal, the JMT is a very reputable NGO [Non-Governmental Organisation] in my view.

This email, albeit only one voice, is to thoroughly support the JMT continuing with their work on Glenridding Common. With the help of [a] very knowledgeable [JMT Conservation Officer]…members of the public [have been led] up onto the Helvellyn Massif …[and told] all about the environment and ecology in the area.  This has been both informative and educational for the people in the group.My contact with [the JMT Property Manager]…over the years has convinced me that [they are] a very keen conservationist and…will certainly ensure that the JMT will do what is right for the common…the Alpine Plant Regeneration Project….is a joint venture run by [the] JMT and Natural England…trying to grow alpine plants from seeds which have [been] gathered from the high crags on the massif.  Their enthusiasm and encouragement has been wonderful with photos being sent round of [the] successes and commiserations on [the] failures. Please don't think twice before extending the lease of Glenridding Common to this dedicated group of people and the John Muir Trust.

Thank you for your e-mail of 3rd July relating to the future lease of Glenridding Common including the option to purchase. The common is part of Helvellyn and Fairfield Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Lake District High Fells Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The whole common is within a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Agreement with the Glenridding commons group which was drafted and negotiated by Natural England in 2013. The Government 25 year plan for the Environment contains various environment targets relating to this land including a commitment to restore SSSIs to favourable condition. During the past 3 years we have established a good working relationship with The John Muir Trust (JMT).

They have understood their responsibilities over improving the condition of the SSSI, and in supporting the traditional  commons management within the HLS agreement. It has also been apparent that JMT have been strong on community engagement and have committed resources to both explain their work and involve others in its delivery.

This has a focus on what Glenridding Common and Helvellyn can give to the community- that might be stunning wild flowers, protection from flooding, traditional farming, income from tourism or just the capacity to enjoy that open space for wellbeing. JMT seem to have the desire and objective to understand all these aspects and to find a way to deliver them happily together. Natural England would be supportive of extending the lease to JMT. If this included an option to buy and become permanently involved then we would also be supportive of this.

The land at Glenridding Common has been in good hands with the John Muir Trust for several years now and your intention to re let to them with the option to purchase in the future indicates confidence in objective delivery to date and in future. [We]…are fully supportive of the JMT …[and]…We fully support the proposal for the future of the JMT at Glenridding and welcome the inclusion of an option to purchase as this will allow them to plan for investment and become more established in the area which can only benefit further from their expertise and excellent track record.

I write in support of the leasing of Glenridding Common to the JMT for another 3 years, as I have been very impressed by all the work that the enthusiastic team from JMT have carried out. I myself have been…involved in conserving some of the flora found on Helvellyn, some of which is very rare. Being asked to join in this made it very clear that JMT wanted local residents to be part of the caring for this wonderful area… However I feel very strongly that whatever decision is made re the selling of the Common must be to the benefit of everyone in [the] Parish.

Thank you for the opportunity to consider your proposals for the extension of the lease of Glenridding Common to the John Muir Trust…we collectively have some concerns with your proposals. These are as follows:

1. We have had interaction with the John Muir Trust (JMT) and feel that they have a sound approach to the management of this land. We are comfortable with the concept of an extended lease in this respect and feel they are capable of bringing considerable benefit to the area through their wider organisation and skill in attracting funding and support.

2. We are however very concerned about giving them the “right” to purchase without knowing details of the terms and conditions of a sale. Without knowledge of these conditions and the need to sell we cannot appreciate the benefits or disadvantages of the sale. If a sale proves to be the preferred way forward we feel that there is an argument to seek value for money by a more open sale process where more than a single interested party can be properly considered.

3. Considering the current and potential future implications of “Covid 19” there is concern that following a sale of what is Common Land the organisation (for example the JMT) could find itself in financial difficulties through constraints here or elsewhere in their operation. The result of this could be that they find they have to sell off the Glenridding Common in a few years time. We would find this situation unacceptable since all the current protection that is now in place for what is public ownership would or could be lost. How would the LDNPA afford protection in this circumstance?

4. May we suggest that an alternative way forward would be a longer lease term with the JMT. A term, as long as 25 years, would give them the ability to plan and develop the area and consolidate their achievements in the full knowledge that they have time to bring all parts to successful fruition. This would be easier to implement and would not bring such a longer-term future commitment into play which in time to come could be controversial.

I hope our comments are of help to you in your consultation process.

While I think the John Muir Trust is a wonderful organisation and has done some terrific work at Glenridding Common over the last few years I am concerned about the long term implications of an outright sale to them. JMT are a charity and a relatively small one…What would happen if they were to get into financial difficulties and need to dispose of some of their assets to pay outstanding legal obligations?

It particularly concerns me that a large portion of their income comes from donations and legacies which are quite obviously unpredictable, especially considering the straightened times we now face, due to the Covid -19 pandemic. It is for instance quite feasible that inheritances may be more severely taxed in the near future and legacies hence drop significantly. We could then find ourselves in the situation where Glenridding Common went on the open market! That could be a disaster for the environment, the community and the wildlife! Furthermore, …[it has been said]…‘capital from the sale would be used in other parts of LDNP’ – implying that the proposal is to sell land in the Parish of Patterdale and use the proceeds elsewhere. This does not seem like a good arrangement for the people of Patterdale!

I believe there is a proposal from Patterdale Parish Council that the Parish has an option to purchase the land itself or to have a shared ownership arrangement with the JMT. This seems like a much more viable idea, whereby the local community get the chance to have some control and some ‘say’ in what happens to this most valuable of assets in the long term, if the National Park cannot afford to safeguard it themselves. I hope you will listen to the concerns of the local community and the representations of [the] Parish Council.

The proposed option to permit this land to be transferred to a private landowner is completely unacceptable. This whole purpose of the LDNP is to retain land for the benefit of the public as a whole. Please remove this [Option to Purchase] clause.

Thank you for your letter and the opportunity to comment on the Glenridding Common Consultation. While we do not have any issues with the rolling over of the current tenancy and occupation arrangements, we do have concerns over the inclusion of an Option Agreement that would grant the John Muir Trust the future right to purchase the area of land which they occupy. As you state in your letter, the Lake District National Park Authority plays an important role in safeguarding the National Park for now and for future generations. One of the activities which makes the Lake District such a unique landscape is the farming activity which takes place within it. Indeed, one of the Outstanding Universal Values identified which led to the Lake District being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was the “distinctive agro-pastoral traditions based on local breeds of sheep including the Herdwick, on common fell-grazing and relatively independent farmers.” This clearly recognises that continued farming in the Lake District is vital the beauty and harmony of the area as well as the World Heritage status.

Therefore, we would be concerned if the decision to sell the common to the John Muir Trust could impact on the use of the common as an agricultural area. Before any decision is made to sell to any buyer, the future use of the common as an agricultural asset should be secured. We would not support any action which could undermine the future of farming in the Lake District.

…with regard to the proposed sale of Glenridding common. [We]…harbour concerns for this change. Without the proper security and agreement that…farming practices will remain protected and supported across this landscape, [we]  can’t positively view the sale to the John Muir Trust…[and] take issue with the potential risk that this sale may cause. At this time - with the significant increase in visitors to the area, [we] find it of the utmost importance that the party responsible for Glenridding Common reflect their intentions to fully embrace their responsibility to the commoners. As such [we would] deem it the JMT’s responsibility to reflect their plans to support and protect livelihoods and tradition on the common.

We wish to register our objection to the proposed sale of Glenridding common to the John Muir Trust. The JMT have leased the common for 3 years now, and…we are aware of very little work which they have done to the common in terms of the infrastructure and management of the common in relation to footpaths, gates, stiles and drainage channels on footpaths to stop the path and the common eroding in periods of high rainfall. They seem to have been totally focused on the vegetation on the high crags on the common. The common is much more than just its botanically significant site. It is a work place…and an area accessed and enjoyed by many thousands of people annually…we are concerned that the JMT’s aims and objectives which are clearly set out in their general literature [are]…“to conserve and protect wild places and other elements of nature for the benefit of the public” [this] would possibly not support the continuation of fell farming.

We are concerned that this does not fit with one of the Outstanding Universal Values of the World Heritage Site which is based on the agropastoral heritage of the area. We are hugely concerned that the JMT’s aims and objectives might not be supportive of any future environmental scheme supporting the farming of sheep on the common. Given that as matters stand at present, landowners have the power of veto to any environmental scheme on their land, we are concerned that if ownership was passed to the JMT we may find ourselves in a position of having a landowner who would be obstructive to any new scheme and be able to stop sheep grazing the common which would be hugely detrimental to…and also not support the World Heritage Status of the area.

Given the lack of involvement and interest in farming that the JMT has, we are very concerned about how the common maybe be managed in future. The current level of grazing on the common is at a level which is workable for…commoners, but if this reduced any further then the turning of sheep to the fell will become unsustainable, and this is in direct contrast to the World Heritage Site status and one of the major reasons that the Lake District was awarded WHS. One of the prescriptions of WHS is the support for pastoral farming and the communities involved in this. The long duration of the farming culture and the survival to the present day is described as being of outstanding universal value, together with great importance being placed on the…hefted grazing system on common. If the National Park were to sell the common to the JMT we are concerned this may not be supported by them.

At no point in any of this consultation or within the last 3 years of the lease have …the long term aims and objectives of the JMT [been made clear]. When consultation was held prior to the [existing] lease being drawn up…the JMT reported that they did not have any clear aims and objectives, but having now been in occupation of the land for 3 years, and we understand having had a management plan in place (of which we have no knowledge or had any input into) we feel there must be long term aims and objectives, but [there has been no consultation] on these and therefore we fear for the future of the common.

It is cited that the Park acquired Glenridding common for the purpose of nature conservation interest and public access, how is it going to be assured that this will continue if ownership changes. Public access is a big issue on Glenridding common with one of the main paths leading to the summit of Helvellyn on the common. [There are] issues with public access in the form of dogs worrying livestock, people leaving gates open and people depositing their rubbish on the common. At present the Park helps with these matters, but [there has been] little support or involvement from the JMT during their 3 year lease. The area is getting busier and busier with visitors due to the World Heritage status and we fear that the JMT will not embrace and help with dealing with the issues that this brings. We are concerned about what is going to be put in place to safeguard the common in the future.

The National Park became owners of the common to ensure the land was managed for everyone and access was provided to it for all. We are not clear if this would continue if ownership is transferred to the JMT. We are…very proud of our landscape and also work in conjunction with other land users and have done for many years in harmony, but we are concerned, given the last 3 years, that this maybe eroded if the JMT were to become owners of the common given their lack of interaction and association with [the local community] over the period of the lease.

We wholeheartedly object to the proposed sale of Glenridding common to the John Muir Trust. In the 3 years that JMT have been leasing the land, us as graziers and farmers have had very little contact with the JMT. The footpaths up to Helvellyn are extremely busy with tourists from all over the world, more so now with the World Heritage Status, (which your takings in Glenridding carpark will reflect), yet very little work has been done to keep footpaths maintained, gates/stiles repaired, repair of areas damaged by very wet winter.

Their newsletters of work they have done seem to reflect that they are fixated with the vegetation, birds and invertebrates higher up the fell. It seems that all of their efforts go into extensive survey work. Not once have we been informed of how/when/where they will carry out work on the land that we graze, yet they have made training extremely difficult for the Search and Rescue Dogs to train in this area that is well known for taking casualties. Which is more important than ever with the current increase in visitor numbers.

As a team member of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, I can tell you first hand that the Search and Rescue dogs have saved many man hours by doing their job. No man or machine can find a human when the mist is low and time is precious. The search dogs should be allowed to train here as they have done for 50 years. As past and present team members of PMRT - two generations - we are especially disappointed in JMT ranger, Mr P Barron as he is an ex-SARDA handler and understands the importance of their role as he explained when he once (and only time) visited us.

We have not been made aware of any long-term plans from JMT when they took the lease on, and we are still no clearer 3 years on. What we do know is they have had very little contact with the 2 graziers. With increase in tourists heading up to Helvellyn, so has sheep worrying (dogs of lead), gates left open, rubbish etc. The JMT have been very little involved in this matter.

We do believe that the JMT’s values do not support farming. We do believe that the values of the JMT clashes with the values for one of the strong reasons we received World Heritage Status: pastoral farming. A tradition carried on from many generations and we do not want to see it lost. It takes years for people to grasp, and it’s something we want to pass onto to our 4th generation son. Our sheep are hefted, they know the fells, they teach it to their daughters every year. It’s something very special and very unique. You can’t buy sheep like this and we don’t want anything to inhibit this. It’s what makes Lake District farming unique and part of how we gained World Heritage Status. We want to see a secure future in farming and traditions for generations to come.

We are concerned that because of the JMT’s values, they would not support our farming business and as landowners could stop us from entering schemes or stop grazing sheep completely. We can’t afford to have sheep numbers cut down any more as it would not leave us with a viable business.

JMT has now identified some wonderful species – that has been living in symbiosis with the sheep for many years – it’s not anything new. If you ask any tourist that witnessed a sheep gather on the fells how amazing it was for them, or when there is a ‘sheep traffic jam’ on the road. Tourists love it, it’s what makes the Lake District – The Lake District. Sheep are very much part of it – and have been for many years. We are very concerned about what is going to be put in place to safeguard the common for future generations of famers, sheep and the visitors. And we are still very unsure of why you are wanting to sell the jewel in the crown and would be in support of a community sale rather than to JMT. For these reasons we object to the sale of Glenridding common to the JMT.