Cumbria commoners are facing financial hardship for the second year in a row because they have not yet received their 2015 BPS payments.
No money has been paid to farmers looking after Birkrigg Common; Dunnerdale Fell; Woodland Fell; Torver Commons; Mungrisedale Common; Caldbeck Common; East Stainmore Common; Hartley Common and Carrack Common. Farmers in Lancashire have also been affected.
Joe Relph, Chairman of The Federation of Cumbria Commoners, said:
“The Federation of Cumbria Commoners need an immediate response from the RPA as to why our members’ 2015 BPS common land payment is now months overdue. This delay has added unnecessary extra financial pressure on top of all the hardship people have had to face with last year’s December floods. It is not acceptable when commoners have honoured and abided by the rules of the 2015 BPS scheme.”
The NFU, CLA and Federation of Cumbria Commoners have written to the Rural Payments Agency to demand that they meet Cumbrian commoners in person to explain what has gone wrong.
The three organisations want to know why farmers who have only had a bridging payment so far have not received a top-up payment, what the prospects of commoners and upland farmers receiving their 2016 BPS payments this December are and what measures are being put in place to stop the same thing happening again next year.
Clitheroe-based sheep farmer Thomas Binns, who represents upland farmers in Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire for the NFU said:
“It is a disgrace that farmers in Cumbria and Lancashire are still awaiting BPS 2015 payments for their common land when we are only two months away from the 2016 payment window opening. For the last ten months they have been anticipating a payment which so far has never materialised. Debts and bills are stacking up on farm kitchen tables and this ultimately puts unneeded financial pressure on them and the many allied businesses which serve these farms.”
CLA Cumbria Chairman, Mark Southern, who farms near Ulverston, added:
“This is a completely unacceptable situation. The RPA is withholding vital payments to hill farmers, whose businesses operate on incredibly tight margins.
“I see no reason why an interim payment cannot be made to help alleviate the problems being caused by the continuing delay. The RPA must be held accountable and step forward to offer some kind of explanation to those of us affected.”