Misuse of funding by Natural England, UK’s Nature watchdog

Local campaigners in West Yorkshire are asking the European Commission to investigate a potential misuse of European funding by Natural England, the UK’s nature watchdog. A representative of the BAN THE BURN campaign, based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, will travel to Brussels on 10th January to meet officials from the Commission’s Environmental Compliance Unit.

She will call for legal reviews of:-

  • Natural England’s decision to drop its prosecution of Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd. In March this year, NE took WMEL to court because of 43 environmental infringements on its 4000 hectare grouse moor estate on the moorland catchment above Hebden Bridge. The case was dropped abruptly for reasons that have not been made public.
  • The subsequent £2.5 million “Higher Level Stewardship” agreement between NE and WMEL. This amounts to £1,000 of public money every working day for the next 10 years in spite of allowing the continued burning of blanket bog – a European priority habitat. Activities which were previously considered prosecutable are now being subsidised by the tax-payer and European funding.

The legal basis for the campaigners’ challenge is that European funding for nature protection should not be used to subsidise activities likely to degrade an extremely sensitive and valuable habitat which is legally protected through the EU Birds Directive and EU Habitats Directive, and that the agreement between NE and WMEL fails to recognise the downstream effects of the management regime. Hebden Bridge was very badly hit by flooding in June and July this year and in order to minimize the town’s flood risk, the upland catchment needs to be managed so that large areas of degraded blanket bog are restored to a healthy state, with a good cover of sphagnum moss to act as a buffer slowing the run-off during heavy rainfall events.

Dongria Kondh explains:- “On Walshaw Moor, we have seen erosion from unconsented tracks, very extensive drainage, and aggressive burning on blanket bog. The increased scale of this activity over the past few years may well have been a contributory factor to the severity of flooding in our town. Instead of being banned, these activities are now being subsidised.”

Dr. Aidan Foley BA, Msc., Phd, FGS, an environmental scientist who has helped the group to compile data for the complaint added: “Sphagnum is particularly vulnerable to fire, so continued burning is widely recognised as detrimental. Such damage to the structure of the soil will prevent this degraded moorland being restored to a healthy state.”

A FURTHER PRESS RELEASE WILL BE ISSUED ON 10TH JANUARY FOLLOWING THE MEETING. This will include photos of MEP Rebecca Taylor introducing Dongria Kondh to Jean-François Brakeland. (Head of Unit, Environment Compliance promotion, governance and legal issues for the European Commission).  Dongria Kondh will hand over the complaint, which the group has prepared with the assistance of Dr. Aiden Foley (attached, 2nd from Bottom, plus appendices).

Background Information:- see the link to the video  of the Ban the Burn! Launch  (please note that this video cannot be further distributed without the permission of Energy Royd).  Contact details:- bantheburn2012@gmail.com, or ring Dongria Kondh 07847 815 926 (please text if the
 mobile is out of signal, and you will be called back).

Note:- Although this is a locally based campaign, it is not just a local issue. Degraded peatlands turn from being carbon sinks to becoming carbon sources – “damaged UK peatlands currently release almost 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year – more than all the households in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds combined.” (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

 10 attachments — Download all attachments  
Appendix 1 – Description of South Pennines SAC & SPA.pdf
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Appendix 2 – Description of South Pennines SSSI.pdf
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Appendix 3 – Walshaw Notice and Consent.pdf
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Appendix 4 – Uplands Review Evidence Submission.pdf
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Appendix 5a – Letter to Andrew Woods from Hebden Bridge Residents 24_09_12.pdf
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Appendix 5b – Letter to Hebden Bridge Residents from Andrew Wood 15_10_12.pdf
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Appendix 6 – Appropriate Assessment of WME Notice.pdf
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Appendix 7 – An interpretation of the ‘benefit’ gained by agreement and HLS payments made to Walshaw Moor Estate.pdf
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Walshaw Moor Complaint Aidan Foley 03_12_12.pdf
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Ban the Burn Press Release 2 Jan 2013.pdf
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3 comments to Misuse of funding by Natural England, UK’s Nature watchdog

  • John Miles

    Sadly we must not have been talking to the right people as its months since we wrote to the EU asking for them to respond to the killing of birds of prey in the UK and of course they have not responded at all.

  • harrier man

    With 2012 being the wettest on record you would hope some of the water or a good % being caught within the upland catchment sadly there is little of a sponge to take up most of the water thus severe flooding in towns and cities across the country.

    Editor’s Comment.. and its going to getting much wetter as climate change takes hold. It seems that Natural England feels protecting the interests of sporting land owners is much more important than protecting our cities and the natural environment…

  • Circus maximus

    Politics is a dirty game…international politics doubly so. You would probably find that it would be more succesful to raise the issue with an MEP from a country that has an axe to grind against the UK.