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Dartmoor Commoners Council acknowledges the time and effort put into compiling this review by David Fursdon and his colleagues and appreciates having the opportunity to respond.

Council supports the findings of the Review and looks forward to enabling a better working environment for all parties across Dartmoor. 

There is a strong desire to create a Land Use Management Group (LUMG) to reinforce Dartmoor’s governance.  This would be independently chaired with commoners taking the lead working with specific stakeholders; Natural England (NE) and Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) and such others as the group needs to consult with from time to time.  The LUMG needs to be small and tightly focused.  The group would work transparently and effectively making best use of the expert knowledge held by the commoners in partnership with stakeholders.

Dartmoor Commoners Council will continue to work tirelessly to support the role of the grazing commoner and continue to endorse the value of grazing livestock.  In doing so, Council will work with commoners and stakeholders to ensure the commoning and grazing livestock are well represented, offering the expertise and knowledge from their perspective.  Council anticipates their role as consultees with stakeholders on matters relating to the commons.  Whilst the Review failed to raise the concerning issue of rewilding on Dartmoor, the Council will continue to voice their concerns.

Council requests that the LUMG provides a safe space to enable active discussions between all parties; where issues can be discussed openly, and solutions found with problems being positively resolved.  Furthermore, as a measure to improve communications, Local Commoners Associations should be informed of surveys and given the opportunity to attend to learn from the findings.

Council supports a holistic grazing strategy, utilising cattle, sheep and ponies to deliver better vegetation management that ensures stakeholders recognise the implicit value of grazing livestock as an integral part of Dartmoor common’s environmental schemes. It is accepted that NE has a statutory duty regarding SSSIs.  However, Council has concerns that poor condition of SSSIs is not necessarily as a result of commoners’ actions.  Council would therefore welcome opportunities to explore alternative methodologies, including the work done with the Dartmoor Test and Trial.  It would be constructive if NE were obliged to consult with Dartmoor Commoners’ Council on matters relating to commons management as in the past.

Council requests a balanced approach to design a multi-functional landscape.  All aspects need consideration.  However, wild fire risk must be addressed immediately, with the size of areas permitted for swaling increased, and environmental scheme liabilities reconsidered, so commoners can organise managed burns effectively and without penalties.  This would allow stock to return to unpalatable areas, reduce grazing pressure on the heather and dwarf shrub heath and lessen fuel load and risk of catastrophic wildfire. 

Council welcomes the Review’s acknowledgement that Dartmoor Commoners’ Council plays an invaluable role and must continue to do so.  Council will conduct its own internal review of its structure and operation to identify ways of reinforcing its effectiveness.

Adopted by Dartmoor Commoners’ Council

13 March 2024

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Crazy Well Cross

Dartmoor Commoners' Council, 1 Canal Road, Tavistock, Devon, PL19 8AR  Tel: 01822 618892

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