This email between Natural England’s Andrew Wood and others (including some recipients whose names have been withheld) contains several matters of interest;
- Its title – this is the first time the the Secretary of State’s, Caroline Spelman’s, name has appeared to my knowledge in this case. It appears that back in December 2011 this case was subject to a close degree of political scrutiny.
- There is a paragraph redacted at the beginning of the email which appears, from what is written further down, to include a ‘cautionary note’. I wonder what that was?
- NE were engaging in a prosecution of the Walshaw Moor Estate on 43 separate counts of alleged breaches of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Habitats Directive.
—–Original Message—- From: Wood, Andrew (NE)
Sent: 22 December 2011 15:26
To: Thompson, Guy (NE); and names that have been withheld
Cc: Dondi, Arik M (FFG- CCDR); and name(s) that have been withheld ,
Subject: RE: Urgent – query from SoS’s Special Advisor
[Word - perhaps a name? withheld here]
We spoke a few minutes ago and I undertook to put my key points in writing.
Whole paragraph withheld here.
Brief Background. Natural England is both prosecuting (on 43 separate counts) the Walshaw Estate for breaches of its consents under both the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Habitats Regulations; and seeking to modify the consents themselves. The court case is likely to be heard in the late summer of next year. The estates appeal against the modification is due to be heard on 18 January. Ministers will determine the outcome of the appeal. Hence my cautionary note above.
The Moorland Association is a party to the appeal, because they are concerned that the outcome will set a precedent for other grouse moors. It is the Moorland Association who have suggested to Ministers and others that we propose wholesale revocation of consents. This is not true. Walshaw is a single case with very particular circumstances. It is also the MA who are suggesting that could be considerable costs attached to the case.
Costs. The prosecution is a criminal proceeding. No costs are awarded in criminal cases. There is likely to be a cost element to the appeal. If the estate win the appeal, they have indicated that they would claim costs against Natural England. They may not be granted them, of course. If they are, it is difficult to calculate what they may amount to, but almost certainly significantly less than the [figure withheld here] the MA are quoting. If Natural England win, we could be liable to pay the estate compensation for the changes to the consents. Again, the MA claim this to be in the order of [figure withheld here]. Our own calculation is that compensation could amount to a few [figure withheld here].
I hope this is helpful. Don’t hesitate to come back to me if you need any more.
This email, forwarded to a very senior civil servant in Defra by the (then) Chief Executive of Natural England shows the high priority (or sensitivity) that the Walshaw Moor case was given by Defra and its delivery agency. It also sets out Natural England’s view that following a change in ownership there was significant increased burning and vehicle access which were damaging the site and were not compatible with the site’s conservation objectives. It makes it clear that the site is designated under EU and domestic legislation. It also makes it clear that Natural England felt that burning of blanket bog on this site (and presumably other sites) was incompatible with the conservation of the site’s natural interest.
From: Phillips,Helen (NE)
Sent: 11 January 2012 07:49
To: Unwin,Peter (ERG)
Subject: Fw: FOR APPROVAL: Walshaw Moor lines for Shooting Times
From: [name withheld]
To: Phillips, Helen (NE)
Cc: Wood, Andrew (NE); [several names withheld]
Sent: Tue Jan 10 20: 16:07 2012
Subject: FOR APPROVAL: Walshaw Moor lines for Shooting Times
Cc Andrew- to note that this version has changed slightly following advice from legal
The Shooting Times approached us today asking for background to the Walshaw Moor Public Inquiry. The statement below has been approved by both Janette and Andrew- as well as our lawyers. I would be grateful if you could confirm that you are happy with it- or whether you require any amends. I would like to get it over to the Shooting Times asap.
Walshaw Moor is notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and designated as part of the South Pennines Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive and as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Wild Birds Directive for its blanket bog, flushes and mires, wet and dry heath, acid grassland, upland breeding birds and millstone grit exposures.
Walshaw Estate currently relies upon a letter written in 1995 as granting consent for unspecified amounts of burning. It is Natural England’s view that, following a change in ownership, burning and vehicle use has significantly intensified – which is damaging the site and is not compatible with its conservation objectives.
Following lengthy discussions it was concluded that a formal modification of the consent was necessary, permitting burning rotations of 15-years on dry heath and 25-years on blanket bog. It would remain possible for the Estate to request permission for other burning rotations.
On 31 March 2010, Natural England issued Walshaw Estate with a Notice of Modification of Consent (NoMoC) under the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act (as amended). The Estate has appealed against this notice :.. primarily against the limits imposed on burning on blanket bog -which accounts for approximately 70% of the Estate- and on dry heath. This appeal is beingheard at a Public Inquiry, beginning on Tuesday 10 January 2012 at NovotelLeeds Centre.
Following concerns that damaging activities have intensified over the last year and that the restrictions imposed by the March 2010 NoMoC did not fully address the level of damage being caused, a further NoMoC was issued (under the terms of the Habitats Directive) on 9 December 2011. This sets a baseline of no burning on areas of blanket bog, a 15-year burning rotation on areas of dry heath, and restrictions on vehicle use and grazing. However, it remains possible for the Estate to request permission to operate outside of these restrictions.
Senior Press Officer
Block 7 Government Buildings, Chalfont Drive, Nottingham, NG8 3SN