'The Ministry of Defence has been accused of a ‘land grab’ as they attempt to turn common land into a firing range for the first time in over a century.
Cumbrian villagers are fighting against the plan which seeks to transfer ownership of the buffer zone to the British army, leaving farmers unable to graze a major part of the Pennines.
In the first attempt to deregulate common land since 1914, The MoD has applied to Cumbria County Council to deregister 4,500ha of the area near Warcop Training Estate to use for training army personnel.
Farm leaders have warned that the move would bring an end to hundreds of years of traditional hill farming in the upland areas of Warcop, Hilton and Murton.
John McDarren, Secretary of the Hilton Commoners, a group that formerly had rights over part of the MoD training area, said: “This is a land grab and it is not acceptable.”
A third of the country was common until the 16th century when landlords and farmers began to enclose sections with fences and walls, sparking peasant rebellions.
Warcop now represents 1 percent of the 'common' land left in England, and the controversial proposal has renewed fears of even more public terrain being lost to the government.
The land ,which lies within the North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty, is often upheld as an idyllic vision of rural British country life .
However, the clatter of the live fire exercises has long disturbed locals who live near the 10,000ha training estate.
There have even been reports of villagers finding old tank shells whilst grazing sheep in what has become known as the “ricochet area.”
Read more: MoD accused of 'land grab' for attempting to turn common land into army firing range
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