What would you have liked to have asked? Wuthering Moors 44

140309 Which way NE hrk 760This interview with the Chief Executive of Natural England is interesting in a way. It illustrates the tensions of pleasing one’s current political masters and living up to the mission that NE has had handed down by Parliament.  Which direction to face?

What would you have liked to hear him say?

Here are some questions I’d be interested in NE answering (and they can please regard this as an FoI/EIR request)?

  1. How many times, and on what dates, have senior NE staff met Richard Bannister since the collapse of the Walshaw Moor Estate court case?
  2. How many visits have NE staff made to Walshaw Moor since the collapse of the court case in order to inspect the site and assess whether damage is being restored or whether further damage has occurred?
  3. Is it true that the damage caused to the South Pennines Moors SAC at Walshaw Moor by drainage, car parks, tracks, grouse butts and ponds will not be restored?  If so, why not?
  4. Can NE confirm that there are around 127 further consents which allow burning of blanket bogs in the English uplands? If so, what steps will NE take to ensure that blanket bogs are protected from damage from burning?
  5. If all burning of blanket bogs in the English uplands ceased tomorrow what impact would/should it have on future SSSI assessments of favourable condition?
  6. How would you describe the part that the Moorland Association, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Countryside Alliance have played in discussions over burning of blanket bogs?
  7. Have Defra Ministers been informed of the implications of the review of the science concerning burning of blanket bogs on the SSSI condition statistics and the sustainability of current grouse moor management?
  8. When, if ever, was the last time that each of the Defra ministers went grouse-shooting?
  9. Do any of your ministers have a financial interest in grouse-shooting through ownership, investment or having relatives (either blood relatives or through marriage) with such interests?
  10. How much money was paid to the Walshaw Moor Estate by Natural England in 2013 and how much is expected to be paid in 2014.




10 Replies to “What would you have liked to have asked? Wuthering Moors 44”

  1. At the highest level there is a deliberate change in the culture of these organisations(not just NE) which is aimed at switching away from expert based advice to policy based advice. The purpose of this is to make the staff distributed around the country largely redundant, reducing the organisation to a core of policy thinkers.

    We all know that the implementation of non-statutory policy is going to be completely ineffective in the conservation of our natural heritage. So do they…but they see it as risk management…. for the most part they believe that they will get away with it.
    So my question to this mandarin would be ….have you carried out a strategic environmental assessment into the impacts of this organisational shift?

  2. Just 2 for now:
    1.Can NE push Defra to amend the pretty useless EIA (Agriculture) Regs 2006 Act to give it powers to (try) protect semi-natural grasslands that fall below the totally inadequate 2 ha threshold?
    2. As tasked by Govt (all Parli Comms) can NE put more resource into notifying (and therefore providing more protection) more SSSIs?

    1. Whilst I’d like agree with DBS (2), I’d like them to actually protect existing SSSIs. See Mark’s guest blog of 17 January 2013 https://markavery.info/2013/01/17/guest-blog-a-muzzled-watchdog-toothless-terrier-helen-kirk/

      A couple of other examples can be found via the link. When we’ve enquired what the annual £50,000 is spent on all I can establish is that it’s not spent where it was generated! Otherwise to quote a Team Leader who was passed the enquiry by a Senior Director “With the financial constraints we are all under at the moment, it is Natural England’s approach that this income is a national resource to be developed to support priority spends across all our NNRs.” We’ve tried recently to secure support for a University Studentship to deliver scientific monitoring to underpin NE management work but that, so far, has fallen on deaf ears as well. To date they will have received £200,000 as a result of assisting E-On with access to the Tween Bridge wind farm, yet the Senior Directors will not support the local staff to deliver science to underpin management work. In terms of their own programme of science to underpin delivery of their management work but it seems they have to ‘bid in’ to a national pot for that.

      I wonder if Mr Webster will respond to your post, beyond ensuring that you receive detail responses?

  3. If our national organisation tasked with protecting our Environment is made up of accountants (like the NHS) how do they (NE) expect to be able to deliver their remit without scientific staff to advise? It seems that the staff with the best knowledge of sites, i.e. local staff, are being ignored by the hierarchy of NE. A good ploy by Defra/government but no use to wildlife or the public.

  4. Interesting that in relation to the Badger Cull Dave Webster says “we believe that we’ve acted professionally – and clearly there would have been a legal challenge to the process along the way if we hadn’t done. That hasn’t happened to date.”

    There was a legal challenge – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-25108191 – but it was unsuccessful. Some independent lawyers have questioned elements of the legality of the decisions relating to the cull and renewal of the licences, that were not tested in the proposed case.

    Perhaps Dave meant to say that there was no successful legal challenge. Which would suggest that NE judges its professionalism by its ability to avoid successful legal challenge. Discuss.


    1. Quite Matt, I wonder just how many issues they’ve managed to do just enough to not be legally challenged? For conservation to fund any challenge is hard, but Defra simply spend our money to cover up their mess?

      Of the badger cull and the next stage, recommended read via http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/1016_S4.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,29111,97TL5P,85J9G,1

      Some quite astonishing facts, but any surprises? I suppose it depends which side of the fence you stand (rather like hen harriers and grouse moors)?

      The Backbench Business Committee discusses the issue in Parliament on Thursday 13 March, the Badget Trust is asking people to send the above briefing to their MPs and to sign the direct.gov.uk epetion via http://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/54685

  5. Why does his statement that:

    “Natural England tries to influence businesses’ plans in order to avoid clashes with its duty to protect the most valuable wildlife habitats, steering development towards locations without environmental protection.”

    make me feel uncomfortable? Could it be the implied emphasis on avoiding protected sites as distinct from avoiding sites in need of protection?

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