Local campaigners 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 Jean-François Brakeland, head of the Compliance Promotion, Governance and Legal Issues Unit (Environment) in the European Commission.

Our BAN THE BURN representative 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 last year and in order to minimize the town’s flood risk, the upland catchment needs to be managed correctly 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 in Brussels. This will include photos of MEP Rebecca Taylor introducing Dongria Kondh to Jean-François Brakeland.

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:-, 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).

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Ban the Burn Press Release 4 Jan.pdf
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Ban the Burn. Submission on Behalf of Hebden Bridge Residents.pdf
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2 comments to BAN THE BURN PRESS RELEASE 4/01/2013

  • Andrew Wiggins

    There is something very disturbing and odd about this whole sordid business; it may just be my suspicious mind but there is more to the way this case was handled by Natural England than meets the eye. I am confident Natural England would not have chosen to drop the prosecution of the land owner on their own account, the issues were always far too serious in my opinion for that ever to arise. There is a smell of corruption for sure, but from a higher authority who would make the final decision which was taken. If I was to make a stab at who called the shots here I would blame The Minister Richard Benyon. It will be very interesting to discover just what comes out on any investigation into the issues highlighted when those responsible for what happened are identified and called to account. I firmly believe Natural England officials will unofficially be supporting any investigation mounted by the European Commission because in reality their hand were always tied behind their backs.

  • john Miles

    Sadly everyone knows it was all about corruption. The big picture was that a court case could effect the management of every Red Grouse moor in Britain as most are SSSIs and badly managed.