I have sent the following to PSC-WaterResources@environment-agency.gov.uk referring to applications Mr A W Alston NPS/WR/007223 & NPS/WR/007224. You could too and the closing date for receipt of such views is Wednesday.
Catfield Fen is drying out, and has been for several years. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt about that.
Catfield Fen is part of the Ant Broads and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Broadland Special Protection Area.
According to the studies that have been carried out no-one can rule out water abstraction for agricultural purposes as being the cause or a contributory cause of the decline in biological richness of this site of European importance for nature conservation.
Renewals of two abstraction licences (Mr A W Alston NPS/WR/007223 & NPS/WR/007224) for spray irrigation, which could be damaging to the integrity of the site, are currently being considered by the Environment Agency.
It is my view that given the importance of the nature conservation interest, and the possibility that the site has been and could be damaged by water abstraction, that the applications to renew the licences should be refused. This would be in line with the requirements of the Precautionary Principle which both Natural England and the Environment Agency should apply to any Natura 2000 sites.
In any case, the very high quality of the Catfield Fen site and the undeniable damage which is being done to it through drying out, is a matter of much greater public significance than a marginal increase in agricultural production (if indeed such a case could be proved) and private profit for an individual farmer. The applications for licence renewal give no information that would allow me or the EA to assess any public value from granting them. No case is made for the necessity of importance of renewing the licences. Given that there is evidence that there may be a public disbenefit, ie loss of internationally important wildlife interest, and no evidence of any public benefit, from granting these licences,the EA should refuse them.
I would therefore like to register my objection to the renewal of abstraction licences which might affect Catfield Fen and the biodiversity of the Broadland SPA and its SSSIs. Please keep me informed of any further consultations and any further action by EA pertaining to Mr A W Alston NPS/WR/007223 & NPS/WR/007224.
I would also like to point out that the link to the consultation was not working over the weekend when I tried to access it on Sunday. Despite the closing date being this coming Wednesday. This might hinder others from objecting to these applications.