This is a massive decision for those who farm the commons. Under the SPS, Defra calculated the proportion of the total eligible area of a common a farmer could claim on the basis of the total number of rights recorded in the register for each common. But, with some commons rights holders not making claims, this left a number of ‘naked hectares’ of unclaimed land and led to some commons graziers complaining their payments were too low.
Following a challenge from farmers with rights over Minchinhampton and Rodborough commons, Defra has changed the rule, with potentially huge implications for commons graziers in England. This means that the full eligible agricultural area of each common will be available to claiming farmers. On some commons this could result in significantly higher BPS payments. Also because Defra have admitted that the method they used in 2005 was not in accordance with the regulations, some farmers will be eligible for addtional amounts under the SPS for previous years.
According to our calculations:
- There are 4,500 claimants on common land
- SPS was claimed on 293,299ha out of the 373,365ha common land grazing area in 2012
- That equated to 21.35 per cent unclaimed area
- If payments had been claimed on this area they wouldd have been worth £8m.
- By land type, £2m moorland, £5.7m lowland, £0.33 million SDA £8m
You can download defra's policy statement here