Commoners in Cumbria are set to lose £238,000 in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) cash due to the recent Rural Payments Agency (RPA) re-mapping exercise, according to new calculations.
The Federation of Cumbria Commoners (FCC), together with David Morley, head of conservation and environment at H & H Land and Property, have found 3,800 hectares of common land across Cumbria are now ineligible for BPS.
Some commons have been much harder hit than others, with areas eligible for payments cut from between 25 to 50 per cent.
The FCC is now questioning whether all the mapping changes are correct, suggesting it is ‘hard to believe’ they are.
Viv Lewis, the group’s administrator, said: “Using the current data, Cumbria’s commoners could lose up to £238,000 in BPS support for 2018.
“It is vital all commoners’ associations who have received notification from the RPA that the eligible area of their common has changed check the RPA has mapped their fells correctly.
“If they do not agree, they need to challenge significant inaccuracies.”
Areas with hard tracks, rivers, streams, rocky outcrops and scree, quarries and mine workings or dense bracken and ungrazeable scrub are excluded from payment.
But the FCC has warned using satellite images which are then interpreted by RPA contractors is ‘not a fool proof’ mapping method and ‘errors can creep in’.
“Shadows on satellite images can make steep ground appear ungrazeable and heather is often confused with ungrazeable scrub,” said the group in a statement.
“As the RPA does not have sufficient staff to walk the common and inspect the land, these errors remain in the system.”
The RPA has not yet produced any guidelines for how commoners should challenge the results of the latest round of mapping, or explained what evidence is needed for a correction.
The FCC has called on the agency to pick up anomalies and check them, before requiring commoners to waste time and money proving why the mapping is wrong.
A Defra spokesperson said they were working with commoners’ associations to ensure all eligible areas are included.
“Inspection data is taken from a range of sources, including remote satellite, and there are robust assurance processes in place to validate inspection results,” the spokesman added.
“Where images taken are unclear or masked by shadows or other land features, field visits are made to conduct a physical inspection on the ground.”
The FCC will be looking at mapping errors in more detail at its AGM on Friday March 8 2019.