Cornwall farmers feeling 'rejected, neglected and ignored' by new rules governing their land

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Farmers in west Cornwall say they feel "pushed out, rejected and ignored" after a decision was made to designate much of their grazing land as a site of special scientific interest.

Rough land across Penwith Moors and Downs has been designated a "site of special scientific interest", meaning farmers are restricted in how they can use their fields.

It has led to a bitter row between the farming community and Natural England who say the status will support nature-friendly agriculture.

Farmers say grazing cows contribute to environmental diversity. Credit: ITV News

Farmer Eric Murley, whose family have worked on land near Pendeen since the 1970s, said: "It means because we are not allowed to farm anymore, it will eventually go completely out of food production.

"The gorse and the bracken will come back and cover it, and just be another area of down."

Natural England says it is working with farmers to find a way forward. Credit: ITV News

Eric's son, Christopher, said: "Natural England see us as polluters of these bogs and destroying it. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. We need cattle grazing the moors, we need them to keep regenerating the growth, to keep them as they are."

Edward Richardson, from the charity Farm Cornwall, said: "I've worked this area now for 13 or 14 years. I've never seen farmers so upset. They don't know what they've done wrong."

Farmers and Natural England are locked in a dispute over the issue. Credit: ITV News

Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said: "The designation of West Penwith Moors and Downs as a SSSI reflects how wildlife has flourished under a combination of generations of low-intensity farming activity and the naturally occurring habitats and species.

"We want to work in partnership with farmers to support them in delivering the best possible management to sustain nature in the SSSI and in the surrounding countryside alongside running their farm business.

"This was a complicated and difficult decision for the Natural England Board, but in the end we decided that the balance of evidence confirmed that these moors and downs should be a Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

"While this inevitably creates uncertainty for farmers and others living and working in the landscape, Natural England will continue to provide advice and support to assist land managers in applying for the Countryside Stewardship scheme, to help secure funds to continue the type of farming that is essential to maintaining the natural heritage of this special part of England.

"The urgency to deliver for people and nature is greater than it has ever been. Nature provides us with clean air, food, water and other essential resources.

"It regulates our climate and is fundamental to our health and well-being. Nature is at the heart of every successful sustainable economy."