An independent review into the management of Dartmoor is set to take place following widespread concerns over Natural England’s intentions for Moorland grazing.

The guarantee of this review was given by the Minister for Farming Mark Spencer MP after MP for Torridge and West Devon, Sir Geoffrey Cox raised concerns during a House of Commons debate yesterday.

Over recent weeks, the MP has been meeting Natural England and the Dartmoor National Park Authority, and pressing ministers to sanction such a review, after consulting local farmers and Dartmoor commoners. 

Last summer, the Sir Geoffrey held a Dartmoor Farming Forum at Two Bridges to which, among others, he invited the Chief Executive of Natural England, and some 200 people attended. He had hoped that it would mark a fresh start in the approach of the agency to Dartmoor’s complex environment rebuilding trust and cooperation. However, last month, Natural England’s suddenly announced, without consultation, and just as the lambing and calving season commenced, that it would require dramatic reductions in grazing, for both livestock and the famous Dartmoor ponies, as part of the new Higher Level Stewardship agreements for Dartmoor due to be renewed in the next few weeks. The announcement has caused widespread consternation about the impact on Dartmoor’s 900 farms. 

Sir Geoffrey, along with Sir Gary Streeter MP and Anthony Mangnall MP, wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling for an independent inquiry into the management of Dartmoor and at the MP’s request, the Speaker granted a debate in the House of Commons, which took place on Tuesday 18 April. The MP for Torridge and West Devon urged the Minister for Farming to appoint an independent person to conduct a review into the management of Dartmoor and the right balance between its competing public interests. 

Sir Geoffrey said: “I am very glad the government has acceded to this urgent and necessary request for an independent process. It is essential that there should be a partnership between all those involved in managing Dartmoor’s precious heritage and it is clear the relationship between our farming communities and Natural England requires urgent repair. I am determined to support our local farming families to sustain viable businesses on the Moor, which are vital to the wellbeing of our communities on Dartmoor, while enabling the condition of our natural landscape to be improved.”