A PROPOSAL to sell an iconic piece of Lake District common land to an independent group has sparked fears again that the area will be used for rewilding.

Glenridding Common, which is currently owned by the Lake District National Park Authority, has been looked after for the past three years by the John Muir Trust.

But the LDNPA has now suggested that JMT, currently based primarily in Scotland, should be given, through a new lease, the exclusive option to buy the common with no open process to test the market in terms of value or the public interest of its future owner.

But the Foundation for Common Land (FCL), has strongly opposed the proposal, arguing that the trust's charitable objective to ‘conserve and protect wild places and other elements of nature for the benefit of the public’ could be prioritised at the expense of protecting farming interests.

In a letter to the LDNPA, the FCL’s executive director, Julia Aglionby, said: “Charitable objectives are important, because in the end, if difficult decisions are required in future, such as the balancing of different and competing public benefits in the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, then the JMT are obliged 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 which balance the farming, nature, culture and recreation objects of the site.”

Currently there are only two active commoning families on Glenridding, but it covers the iconic sites of Striding Edge and Helvellyn. In 2017, the FCL forced the LDNPA to include specific protections for commoning in the JMT lease for Glenridding after raising the same concerns. LDNPA said :We have a duty to consider whether an alternative organisation could manage and improve Glenridding Common, whilst ensuring livelihoods are protected. Through our relationship with JMT over the past three years, it is clear this is also their aspiration."

There is a further worry that private common land owners, which are increasing in number, will use their power of veto to block commoners from entering into stewardship schemes which do not meet the owners’ objectives, or extract a ‘rent’ from any cash made as part of the scheme.