This is NE’s response to my FoI/EIR request of 10 March.
The answer to Qu4a confirms the ongoing scale of the burning of blanket bog in the English uplands and the fact that it has been consented by NE.
The answer to Qu 5 seems rather evasive to me.
Qu10 – that’s a lot of our money. Pity we aren’t getting all of the damage restored for our investment according to the answer to Qu3.
Dear Mr Avery
Access to Information Request – Request no 2412
Thank you for your request for information on Walshaw and burning on blanket bogs, which we received on 10 March 2014. Your request has been considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs).
You asked the following questions:
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?
Andrew Wood, Executive Director – Science, Evidence and Advice is the only senior member of Natural England staff that has met with Mr Bannister. They have met four times since the since voluntary settlement was achieved with the Estate.
• 26 April 2012
• 29 October 2012
• 22 April 2013
• 24 February 2014
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?
Natural England and its contractors have visited 20 times since the voluntary settlement was achieved with the Estate, to conduct condition assessments.
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?
Walshaw Moor Estate have not been required to remove any existing infrastructure or conduct any restoration, the achievement of a management agreement on a voluntary basis with Walshaw Moor Estate, is considered (and, at the time the management agreement was entered into) to be a more favourable outcome for the conservation of the site than the pursuit of the criminal proceedings. You will be aware that to secure restoration through the courts under the Wildlife and Countryside Act there has to first be a successful conviction but even then restoration does not automatically follow, it is at the courts discretion whether a restoration order will be granted.
4a. Can NE confirm that there are around 127 further consents which allow burning of blanket bogs in the English uplands?
As of October 2013 there are 132 burning consents on blanket bogs. However, there may be a number of other consents that are temporarily superseded by other agreements eg Environmental Stewardship, but we don’t hold a central record of these.
4b. If so, what steps will NE take to ensure that blanket bogs are protected from damage from burning?
Natural England has already undertaken a review of Uplands evidence and published the results, http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/uplands/default.aspx. One of the 5 topics covered by the review was the effects of managed burning on upland peatland biodiversity, carbon and water. The output from the review is assisting us with developing the management advice we provide to our customers. In respect of burning in the uplands Natural England is developing revised guidance which will shape the future protection of peatland.
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?
Burning is just one of a range of impacts that affects condition on blanket bog, It is not possible to assess the impact of cessation of burning in isolation from other impacts on 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?
The EIRs do not require Natural England to create new information or to speculate or hypothesise. Therefore, Natural England does not hold this information and so, EIR Regulation 12(4)(a) – information not held, applies
However, we can tell you that these organisations along with many others such as RSPB, the water companies, NFU, Ban the Burn and National Trust have been involved in the development of the guidance.
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?
Natural England has not informed the Defra Ministers of the implications of the review of the science, as we do not provide direct briefings to ministers.
However, Natural England has been working very closely with Defra officers regarding the review of science concerning burning of blanket bogs and the revised burning guidance as part of the Upland evidence review and published results.
8. When, if ever, was the last time that each of the Defra ministers went grouse-shooting? Natural England holds no information in relation to this question. Therefore, EIR Regulation 12(4)(a) – information not held, applies. We would recommend you direct this question to Defra.
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?
Natural England holds no information in relation to this question. Therefore, EIR Regulation 12(4)(a) – information not held, applies. We would recommend you direct this question to Defra.
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?
07 January 2013 – £105,144.86 (mid-year slightly delayed so fell into 2013)
04 June 2013 – £105,144.94 (year-end)
09 December 2013 – £105,144.86 (mid-year)
2013 Total – £315,434.66
03 February 2014 – £25,638.20 – capital works for grip blocking surveys and restoration plan for the site.
Payments due 2014
01 June 2014 – £105,144.90 (year-end)
01 December 2014 – £105,144.90 (mid-year)
2014 Total expected payments – £235,928