Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

More BPS money from Common Rights

Following a legal challenge from some Gloucestershire common rights holders, Defra is changing the way it allocates entitlements, and therefore payments, to those common right holders who claim BPS.

Historically, Defra has allocated a number of entitlements against the eligible area of a common. The entitlements were then allocated to everyone that held common rights, whether they claimed the payment (SPS and now BPS) or not. This meant that some money on some commons was not claimed each year.

The Gloucestershire commoners have successfully changed the policy so that the entitlements for the common are allocated only against those commoners who claim the government grant. This should mean that, for some commons, the commoners will have the right to more entitlements and therefore a higher payment.

To be eligible for the entitlements on common land, a claimant must be an active farmer for the purpose of BPS and the farmer must use or actively manage the common. This can involve grazing livestock, partaking in a countryside stewardship scheme, or managing scrub so that the common land is able to be grazing or cultivated.

The changes to entitlements and their allocation will be retrospective to 2005, however additional payments for previous years can only go back to 2009 due to the six year limitation rule. To be eligible for previous payments under the SPS scheme, a farmer must have claimed the entitlements for common land in 2005 and every year since. Where land has been bought since, a new farmer wanting to claim the extra entitlements retrospectively

will not automatically qualify. It is hoped that there will be a way to make a case for why farmers should be able to apply for extra entitlements if they did not make a claim in 2005.

Defra is planning to release a new application form and guidance this month to allow farmers to make a claim for additional entitlements. There will be no legal deadline date to make an application but applications are encouraged by the end of the year so that new entitlements are allocated in time for the 2016 BPS claim.

It is already anticipated that the BPS payment will be late this year as the RPA is working with a new scheme and had to revert back to a paper-based application form at the last minute. Changes to common rights will not help improve matters for claimants who claimed common rights to receive their payment any faster. In may be that the RPA will prioritise easier claim forms first, with the effect that a common rights claimant could be moved nearer the bottom of the list with these changes. The RPA is still catching up on last minute normal entitlement transfers from the June deadline, by which time surplus entitlements had to be transferred or lost.

Whilst the RPA have still not confirmed the payment rate for common rights in 2015, farmers are encouraged to review their common rights as potentially extra entitlements for the last five years, and at least a further five years under the BPS, could be useful additional income for managing existing land.

Carter Jonas has national experience of managing common land claims and, as Defra will not be allocating extra entitlements unless an application is made, can advise where required.

christopher turner

Christopher Turner

Associate Partner

Christopher is part of the rural team, carrying out management and professional services for private clients in the Newbury area. He specialises in the management of rural countryside estate, providin...

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