A GROUP set up to protect Cumbria’s iconic uplands has proposed a 25-year environmental scheme to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support measures following Brexit.

The Uplands Alliance is a group bringing together hill farmers, land managers, researchers and policy-makers.

It was consulted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on how the post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) could be structured to provide public benefits such as biodiversity, carbon storage and clean water.

A series of nine meetings, funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, took place across England.

Farmers commented on the impending loss of the European Union’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) as well as facing reduced incomes from poorer meat prices and declining sales.

They suggested that the overall level of funding for ELMS needed to be about the same level as the existing BPS.

The farmers also put together a list of proposals. These included: long-term agreements of about 25 years to allow business planning and delivery of environmental benefits; sufficient payment rates to ensure business viability; and a non-prescriptive approach that allows farmers scope to deliver outcomes in the most practical way.

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Summarising the meeting, Julia Aglionby, chairman of the Uplands Alliance, said: “It was fantastic to see so much positive energy.

“There is substantial common ground between those who care about, manage, conserve and farm the uplands.

“We all value the northern uplands for their health, wellbeing and environmental benefits.

“Going forward, with the appropriate support, we can enhance these while maintaining each area’s distinctive cultural heritage and communities.”