Wuthering Moors 45

Heather burning Great Hograh moor. Photo: Colin Grice
Heather burning Great Hograh moor. Photo: Colin Grice

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


10 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 45”

  1. How much has the RSPB (which shoot foxes incidentally) received from the Govt over the last 10 years?

    Just asking – like.


  2. Interesting that Andrew Wood has visited Mr Bannister on four separate dates. I’ve been involved with over 80 separate HLS agreements since 2005 and not one of those 80 agreement holders has received a vist from Mr Wood or any other senior NE manger. What makes this place different, why does Mr Wood have such a keen attachment to the place and I wonder what they discussed? Don’t NE employ experienced land management advisers to broker land management and environmental agreements with land mangers, so is sending a director four times overkill?

    1. I wonder what the minutes of those meetings say? Presumably they would be disclosable under FoI/EIR??

      1. Minutes …of a meeting involving a director…..???? Don’t you know that an inability to write is a pre-requisite for the job!

        I suppose an obvious follow up question is :- how many SSSI’s are not in favourable condition because muirburn is undertaken?
        I know this is a birdy site but…. the habitats are based on vegetation. There are a number of specialist blanket bog plant species whose natural range has been ruined because of fire. The problem is that the site condition monitoring has been dumbed down to make more sites pass and it does not look for full ecological health.

  3. That is an outrageous amount of money! What exactly is the £235K per year paying for? That is £2.35 million over the 10 years!! Surely that amount of money isn’t just to ensure that they do not to break the law (any more than they might or might not have done already)….is it??

  4. q3. What area of the SPA has been directly destroyed by drainage, car parks, tracks, grouse butts and ponds? As this is a permanent loss of habitat, have the UK government agreed this reduction in SPA with the EU?

    It may seem trivial but it can add up…1000m of 1m wide ditch = 1ha. 500m of 4m track = 2ha. a Grouse butt at 4 X 4 16m2 x 10 160m2 . These are the direct footprint figures… the habitats in proximity to these built features will be damaged eg by disruption of the peat land hydrology (lowering of the water table).

    Another key question has to be- why does the negotiation of a management agreement (which should have been undertaken regardless of damage as the site was not in FCS) preclude the steps necessary for the enforced restoration of the destroyed areas of habitat. They are for completely different things?

  5. Q. 3 not restoring any damage is “a more favourable outcome for the conservation of the site than the pursuit of the criminal proceedings” – sorry, run that past me again? What would the less favourable outcome than not restoring damage be – even more damage? What if there is even more damage anyway – presumably NE wouldn’t dare try to prosecute because this will lead to a less favourable outcome? Perhaps this is some strange use of the word ‘favourable’ that I don’t understand…

    Q. 4a why the **** not?

    Q. 4b Interesting use of the word “customers”. Do NE regard WME as one of their “customers” ?

    Q. 4b versus Q. 5 – so we’ve reviewed the effects of burning on upland biodiversity but we don’t know what impact stopping burning would have on upland biodiversity. Sorry, run that past me again?

    Q. 10 – I want my money back!! Or could I also claim £235,928 from the taxpayer for not restoring some unique, precious and internationally important upland habitat? I don’t actually own any, but I still reckon that would be a more favourable outcome than giving it to WME…

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