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Understanding commoning in Pembrokeshire

A project to assess the current status of commoning in Pembrokeshire has been awarded funding by Arwain Sir Benfro.

Arwain Sir Benfro – the Local Action Group (LAG) for Pembrokeshire, administered by PLANED has provided funding of £4,350 to European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, in partnership with Commons Vision for a study into the current state of commoning. This is funded through the LEADER programme, which is part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, Funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Common land within Pembrokeshire is a microcosm of commoning across Wales, and offers the opportunity to consider the resilience of pastoral practices across a mixture of upland, lowland and coastal commons at a range of sizes and levels of organisation, from the very small to the large upland commons of the Preseli. Pembrokeshire is important within the context of commoning in Wales, with the highest proportion of registered commons within any county. The State of Commoning Report Wales 2016 (SOCW) identified that Pembrokeshire, a county of 1,590km2 has 244 registered commons covering an area of 5,310Ha which is ~ 3.34% of the land area of the county.  The majority of these registered commons are small, less than 3ha in size.  Many of these small commons are ineligible for Agri-environment funding due to the high transaction cost.  Despite this, such commons are important in the context of landscape integrity, biodiversity, habitat connectivity and access.

The purpose of the first phase of the project is to establish what the current situation is on commons within Pembrokeshire, collect baseline data, examine the barriers to the exercise of rights on commons and begin to develop solutions that will lead to a second phase of activity.  The second phase will initiate activities delivering practical actions that support pastoral agriculture within the county, which can also be applied more widely across Wales. The proposal is to investigate the rate of change on commons within Pembrokeshire using a combination of methods which will include face-to-face meetings with graziers and partners, the collection of historic data and the development of a robust data set from which future change can be measured as evidence to support evolving policy. Four ‘barometer’ commons will be examined in detail, which reflect the different situations found within Wales.

The European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP) aims to reverse the decline of the farming types that most benefit biodiversity across Europe, by making them socially, economically and environmentally sustainable at the farm and landscape scales. We work to raise awareness and understanding of the policies and other factors that are keys to their sustainable future, by research, networking and dialogue and by networking between low-intensity farming areas.

Commons Vision’s aim is to provide practical solutions to common land and ecological issues through their consultation, ecological, environmental and management services.  They provide a service to a broad client base of commoners, local authorities, national charities, statutory organisations and government.  Their ethos is based on an ecosystem approach, working with the natural environment to sustain those systems which support our cultural, environmental and socio-economic needs.  They aim to ensure that their impact is measurable and appropriate to the needs of the people, landscapes, habitats and species concerned.

Arwain Sir Benfro is currently supporting project ideas from local community groups, organisations and businesses. As the Local Action Group for Pembrokeshire, we bring together a mix of local community representatives, business, third sector, local authority partners.”

LEADER is supporting all kinds of activity: mentoring, training, feasibility studies or pilot projects that test an innovative new idea. It can also be used for projects that improve local skills, make better use of a local resource or realise the economic potential of part of the locality leading to a ‘new’ outcome or product.

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