Use them!

On one of the last day’s of my trip to the USA I watched a killdeer calling in alarm as a man, unwittingly I think, disturbed the bird from its chicks.  The bird’s cries cut through the mist of the June Gloom on the California coast – I won’t forget the sound of them as I watched from a bridge.  The man was unaware of the bird’s distress and nature’s pain was not heard.

This government has abandoned any pretence of caring for the environment – it isn’t listening to killdeers or skylarks or nature as a whole.  Chancellors don’t often mention the environment (Gordon Brown practically never did) and when they do it’s usually to say something woolly and nice about it that they don’t really mean, so for George Osborne to lash out at it means that something is afoot.  It may be that Osborne, in positioning himself for a leadership bid in the fullness of time, sees the bear-like Boris as his main contender, and not being able to out-nice Boris he has decided to out-nasty him.  It seems to come easily to the Chancellor as his obvious contempt for social and environmental targets looked heart-felt rather than staged.  Osborne may feel that at times of hardship it is the tough leaders that are chosen and that therefore picking on public servants and wildlife show his determination to be a great leader.

Osborne isn’t stupid, whatever else he might be, and he can’t really believe that the nature directives are holding back the UK economy to any important extent – or can he?  If he only mixes with ‘leaders’ of industry then he will have experienced the drip, drip poison of moaning from the ports industry, the  aviation industry, the wind energy industry, the building industry, the transport infrastructure industry and others about the red tape and gold plating of the directives.  Maybe Mr Osborne should get out more and hear some other and better-informed views.  Ask the tourist industry what it wants and ask the voters what they want.

I wrote last week that, if anything, we have all been too reticent about using the nature directives to their full extent.  there has been a fear that if we use them then government might turn around and try to water them down – well, they have turned around to water them down so that consideration no longer applies.

And so I followed up by getting in touch with the EU about how to make a complaint about the UK government’s non-compliance with the Birds Directive and Habitats Directive.  I spoke to a very nice lady on the UK desk who seemed a little surprised to be having this conversation but confirmed that any EU citizen can launch a complaint.  So I think that’s what I shall do – and so could you too.

The nice lady told me that I should inform my government what I am doing so ‘Hello Defra!  I am going to complain about UK non-compliance with the nature directives!’.

She also told me that I should liaise with anyone else making complaints but she couldn’t tell me who they might be so if there is anyone out there who wants to compare notes then please get in touch.

And, she sent me a form, which she told me is not obligatory, which I attach to the bottom of this blog – there’s always a form isn’t there?

My grounds for complaint will be as sketched out last week in this blog.  The UK has not implemented Article 2 of the Birds Directive as it has not taken ‘the requisite measures to maintain the populations of the species referred to in Article 1 [‘all species of naturally occurring birds’]’.  Most of the action regarding the Birds Directive has been around protected areas but the Directive is quite clear that it covers much more than that as Article 3.2 makes clear when it talks about the management of areas inside and outside of protected areas.

I will be looking at three main areas as a basis for a complaint:

– the continuing decline of farmland birds at a rate greater than that in most EU countries

– the loss of hen harriers from the English uplands due to illegal persecution despite the designation of Special Protection Areas for their conservation


– the failure to designate a network of marine protected areas

If anyone, anywhere, wants to join in, help or comment then please do, either publicly or privately.  And if there is a legal practice out there which wishes to do some pro-bono work for the natural environment then please do get in touch.

I’ll be looking at the Habitats Directive too – but let’s start with the Birds Directive.

There is nothing, of course, to prevent all of you and far more people making similar complaints – if you are interested then please do get in touch.  Maybe we could make this a people’s complaint rather than my complaint.



For the Commission
Member State:

(For Site Related Aspects of Nature Conservation issues)

I would be grateful if you would complete this request for supplementary information. The purpose of this request is to help the Commission to more fully and accurately identify and evaluate the essential site-based nature conservation issues raised by your letter.
The provision of the requested information may be decisive for a proper handling of the environmental issue brought to the attention of the Commission, and, where appropriate, the making of representations to the national authorities.
I look forward to hearing from you within the next month.

Contact person:                Tel.            E-mail

Member States concerned:

Regions concerned :

1) Does the case have any direct link to Community nature conservation legislation?

Yes             No 

2) If yes to which directive ?
79/409  (the Birds Directive)
92/43  (the Habitats Directive)
Or which other legislation ?

3) Give a clear description of the subject of the environmental issue brought to the attention of the Commission (max. 1/2 page)

Have you already contacted the responsible administrative authorities of your Member
State concerning your case
 No    Please explain why you have not contacted your national authorities before addressing                            the European Commission :
 Yes    Which one :

Answer / Results in brief

Please add if possible copies of the correspondence.

Have national court proceedings addressing the matter been commenced or are they envisaged?

 No
 Yes    Please give details:

Please add copies of court pleadings if possible

5.1. Are you aware if any EC financing is directly involved (e.g. structural funds, Life, etc.) :
Yes   No 

5.2. If yes please give details :

6) Location


Name of Site(s):………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Next big city close by : ………………………………………

Surface area (ha) : ……………………………………….

Special Protection Area1 :   Yes    No      Name :

Proposed site of community importance2 : Yes    No      NATURA 2000 Code : ……………………..

Is the area already under national protection   No   Yes : ………………………………………………………
(which one)

Scientific description :



The map should show the location of the plan /project referred to in your letter, and, if known, the boundaries of any designated or proposed nature conservation site (e.g. special protection area under Directive 79/409/EEC (wild birds)or proposed site on national list under Directive 92/43/EEC (habitats)).

Colours and symbols are  helpful means of clearly indicating and describing key information such as site boundaries and the location of any plan or project.

A clear legend giving the scale and explaining any colours or symbols used is also helpful.

    Maps can be presented on a format larger than A4, if necessary.


* :        Tick if the habitat type is a priority one according to Annex I of the Habitats Directive
Code :    Refer to the Habitats Directive
Name :    Name of the habitat type according to the Habitats Directive

*    Code    Name    Surface area for the site

Comments (conservation status if known, significant effects of the plan/project,                               bibliographic references used)


G :        GROUP: M=Mammals, A=Amphibians, R=Reptiles, F= Fish, I=Invertebrates, P=Plants

* :        Tick if the species is a priority one according to Annex II of the Habitats Directive


Comments (conservation status if known, significant effects of the plan/project,                       bibliographic references used)





COMMENTS (conservation status if known, significant effects of the plan/project,                                 bibliographic references used)


10.1 The plan project has already been approved by the competent authorities :
Yes             No  

10.2  If yes, by which act ?

10.3  and which authority ?

10.4  If the plan or project has not yet been approved, please indicate the administrative                                procedure being followed and the stage reached:

11.1 Has any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or environmental impact study
been done or is one in progress?                  Yes         No  

11.2. If yes, give a brief description of its results (max. 1/2 page)

12) a) Describe any alternative solution(s) to the plan or project which have been considered by the authorities (indicate on the maps if relevant)
(max. 1/2 page)

b)  Describe any other alternative solution(s) to the plan or project which you believe are feasible and which have not been considered by the national authorities (indicate on the maps if relevant) (max.1/2 page)

13) a) Describe any mitigation measures which have been proposed or considered by the national authorities (indicate in the maps if relevant)
(max. 1/2 page)

b)    Describe any mitigation measures which you consider feasible and which have not been considered or proposed by the national authorities (max.1/2 page)

14) a)  Describe any compensatory measures for nature conservation damage caused by the plan or project which have been proposed or considered by the national authorities (indicate in the maps if relevant)
(max 1/2 page)

b)  Describe any compensatory measures which you believe are feasible and which have not been considered or proposed by the national authorities (indicate on the maps if relevant) (max.1/2 page)

15) Other information (max. 1/2 page).  Copies of relevant studies and publications may be annexed.

Place    Signature



15 Replies to “Use them!”

  1. Fantastic Mark – I wondered what your plan was – talked with a couple of fellow RSPB supporters last Tuesday about whether there was a challenge that could be made via EU – but we just TALKED – thank you for showing how to take ACTION! (Challenging form – as ever!)

  2. Mark,

    good idea.

    We already have a complaint lodged with the EC against the Government’s failure to implement the EIA Directive as regards the effect of intensive agriculture on semi-natural areas: this relates to the woefully ineffective EIA (Agriculture) Regulations.

    I have already been in touch with Carol Day at WWF talking about bringing to the attention of the EC Infringements Unit that the proposals in the Autumn Statement could well bring the UK Government into a breach of the HD/Birds Directive. There’s a Wildlife Link legal group who are meeting today to talk about it. We’re meeting the EC in January to discuss the various complaints against the UK Government on environmental directives.

    It is possible though that Gideon is more than happy to pick a fight with the EC at this moment – playing to the Tea party wing of the Tory party. Bearing in mind how long it takes for complaints to progress, his successor could be left dealing with the aftermath.

    I also agree with your analysis – this looks like it is all positioning ahead of the next Tory leadership contest, which looks like it will be Boris v Gideon.

  3. What I fear Osborne is just realising is that Keynes was right all along – the balance of the national budget means that rising unemployment rapidl;y swallows front-end savings on public services. There’s no way out: the Government has done such a good job of depressing economic confidence that even it changed course now it would take forever for things to turn round. In the menatime large chunks of our media & politics gloat at the Eurozone’s even greater crisis, cheerfully oblivious to the fact that these countries are by far our biggest trading partners and regardless of the euro we are tied to them hand and foot. Not so Germany, of course, which sold almost as many Audis to the Chinese as to Germans last year in contrast to the UK which apparently does more business with Belgium than China. When you’ve managed to completely trap yourself you do lash out – and wildlife can’t fight back and its NGO supporting lobby has shown itself remarkably compliant up till now, starting with its helpful position over forest sales.

  4. The public want their fuel and electricity to be as cheap as possible. Following environmental policies pushes the prices up. Therefore the environmental movement will need to persuade the public of the need to pay more. At present not only are they not willing to do this but in the case of Friends of the Earth they are actually attacking the government for high electricity prices, even though these are an inevitable consequence of following green policies.

    1. Alan – thank you for your comment. But how much has the Birds Directive added to electricity prices? And how much has the protection of the environment added to tourism revenues and quality of life? Where is the evidence that protecting the environment costs us much? And if it costs us, when were we asked if we were willing to pay?

  5. Hi Mark,commend you for determination and effort,would support you with the birds and marine part but you know that on further environment problems whereas you see it as deliberate trashing,I see it as not deliberate more a by-product of G O trying to get the monetary crisis sorted.That is not to say I would not back you further but the three you outline there is no need to be affected.Well done but that form is challenging for ordinary country folk.

  6. Mark – I dont think anyone can say exactly how much one directive has cost, but my local Conservative MP told me for a fact that high energy prices are something which many have complained to him about, and nobody has ever written to him demanding that they be made even higher. The coalition government adopted green policies hoping to get the support of groups like Friends of the Earth, only to have it thrown back at them.

    1. Alan – your local MP will have had many letters about wildlife and no-one will ever have written to him demanding that it be reduced further. And the two conversations are separate – protecting wildlife doesn’t jack up your bills in anyway that you would notice. And it it does then so does evrything else valuable in the world. We could all be richer if we let people die earlier. We could all be richer if we ddidn’t educate our youth. We could all be richer if we ignored the poor in the world. Money is for doing good. Life is for doing good. Lift your eyes! And the coalition government adopted green policies because the LibDems believe in them, but haven’t made them stick.

  7. Great blog Mark. As someone who is at the ‘coal-face’ of ecology & wildlife vs construction here in the UK, I am reading the NPPF debate with interest!

  8. Mark – Wealthy countries are better at protecting their wildlife than poorer countries. We can’t do it without wealth.

    It’s time the Green lobby lifted their eyes a bit and started supporting government policies on nuclear power and reducing immigration if they are serious about protecting the environment.

    1. Alan – the green lobby is disparate. Why anyone caring about wildlife would support this government is presently beyond me – but maybe we’ll see another change of heart?

  9. Living in the S.East and calling on customers throughout the area’s of Kent-Surrey-Sussex-Middlesex. I see a lot of area’s that could be used for building etc. These are mainly brownfield sites which nobody seems to want to use due to addittional costs, using these would surely get rid of some of the eyesores I see. I’m a very keen bird watcher and I would hate to see the government infringing on what is a revenue winner, think only of the £’sss worth of equipement we carry round with us when we visit these sites, this all was bought and it keeps people in employment. It has taken many years to get some of these superb reserves to the high standards we see today, plus the NEW wildlife they have brought in.
    Let us not think short term—THINK FUTURE. Mr Osbourne will not be there forever so let us hope he doesn’t cause too many issues to be sorted out by the next person who comes along and says ” The previous Government did not – – – – – -“. Heard it before have we?.
    Finally Airports. What is wrong with Manston in Kent as a third London airport. It is already there, has great road/rail networks and it would bring much needed employment to the area.
    Good Luck Mark

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