Wuthering moors 3

The Heather and Grass Burning Code of 2007 may have escaped your attention although it is a quite remarkable document carrying, as it does, the logos of Defra, Natural England, the Moorland Association, the CLA, the NFU, the Heather Trust and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

In paragraph 10 that document clearly states that:

There should be a strong presumption against burning sensitive areas. Doing so may permanently damage the environmental interest of the land and may be unlawful. In special circumstances, the advantages of burning on sensitive areas may outweigh the disadvantages. If you feel a sensitive area on your land falls into this category, you may wish to contact Natural England for advice.

Now this is a voluntary code – I guess it was the Labour Government’s go at a ‘Big Society’ approach where you get everyone together, decide what is sensible and then rely on their good will to implement the code and not to cheat when it suits them.  You may recollect I am a bit sceptical about such approaches.

The code goes on to make it clear that peat bogs, including blanket bogs, raised bogs etc should not be burned unless in line with a management plan agreed with Natural England.

The Walshaw Moor estate is part of the South Pennine Moors SPA, the South Pennine Moors SAC and the South Pennine Moors SSSI – yep! it’s a moor in the South Pennines with just about every nature conservation designation that it could feasibly have.  So the crux of this matter, at least the biological crux of this matter, is whether ‘too much’ burning damages this protected habitat and what is ‘too much’.

That is the biological crux.  The political crux is whether pressure was put on NE to give up this case, where that pressure came from and whether it was legitimate or not.




1 Reply to “Wuthering moors 3”

  1. Mark, you might as well bin the heather and grass burning code along with the vital uplands document that NE produced. I don’t think you will ever get this group of individuals to do anything voluntarily, as we have seen they can pretty much get on with what they want if the back fall legislation protecting these sites can’t be robustly defended by Natural England and be over-ridded by the meddling of well connected individuals. Come to think of it, why isn’t sport shooting and all the management going with it regulated in the UK like it is in many other countries? Burning of blanket bog is criminal and unnecessary for this internationally rare and important habitat. It is a massive carbon sink and burning it risks carbon loss, erosion, water contamination before we consider the effects of loss in terms of biodiversity and habitat change. Burning results in dryer, heather dominated bogs with less important bog forming mosses. I think I would rather have some naturally functioning wet bogs with a little light grazing and home to a range of our charismatic upland species and nice clean water for future generations to enjoy, not just the minority that hold control over it at present. The thought of improving bogs terrifies me. My worry is that burning has increased over the last 20 years in many places and is all part of the game to intensify our uplands further for factory farming grouse to un-natural levels. This is not sustainable in the long run and I’m sure the minister has probably been told much of this by his advisers.

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