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Labour vague over common land reform, says Bates

October 10, 2003 12:00 AM

Mick Bates AMMick Bates AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat countryside spokesperson, today criticised the Labour Assembly Government's perversely vague approach to the reform of common land in Wales.

The joint DEFRA-Welsh Assembly Government consultation paper on the agricultural use and management of common land was issued on the 22 August.

He said: "This consultation doesn't give stakeholders any real reform proposals to comment on, nor is there any clear outline as to what advisory bodies Labour intends to put in place for Wales; a large percentage of Welsh upland is common land and it is essential that the government is clear in what it wants to achieve with these reforms."

Commons for the most part comprises land that escaped enclosure in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many are subject to rights of common, such as the right to graze stock, to fish and to collect firewood. These rights are not enjoyed by the public at large but by designated commoners, usually by virtue of the rights being attached to the property they occupy, often adjoining a common.

"The large hill commons of Wales play a key role in upland agriculture - the government must not only recognise their value to farming, but also in terms of bio-diversity and conservation,' said Mr Bates, 'The remit of this consultation is massive, as will be its impact upon common land and town and village greens - I look forward to the Minister's statement on this during EPC committee".

-Release Ends-

Notes to Editors:

* Village Green Regulations (no 83) is scheduled for consideration by the Environment, Planning and Countryside committee in late spring of 2004.

* The consultation sets out the Government's proposals for legislation to enable the agricultural management of common land by statutory commons associations, for regional representative advisory bodies to advise the Secretary of State or National Assembly, new powers of last resort in relation to common land which is not being managed sustainably, controls on the lending of rights of common, and the unilateral surrender of common rights. The consultation also includes a partial regulatory impact assessment, setting out in qualitative form the benefits and costs associated with the Government's proposals.

* Common land cannot be enclosed without an Act of Parliament. The enclosure of common land was a source of friction and discontent over the centuries. There are some 550,000 hectares of common land in England and Wales (there are no commons in Scotland and Northern Ireland).