This may be the end of a long story, provided the Environment Agency hold their nerve – you can help them, see below.
It’s all about abstraction licences and whether EA should renew them, or not renew them. They shouldn’t renew them in this case, because the abstraction may well have affected the Special Area of Conservation which includes Catfield Fen next door.
The good news is that the EA are now ‘minded to’ (I hate that phrase) not renew the licences. Hooray!
The bad news is, in my humble opinion, that they should not have renewed them from 2012-2015 anyway. Boo!
Here are what I think are the relevant bits of garblespeak:
‘Updated conclusion under Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
Based on the new information received from NE and the BA (summarised in Annex 1 of Environment Agency, 2014e), the potential for adverse effect on site integrity at The Broads SAC, Broadland SPA and Broadland Ramsar from the Plumsgate Road and Ludham Road abstractions both alone and in-combination with other abstractions has been re-assessed.
The evidence presented within the addendum to the Appropriate Assessment and supporting technical reports shows that the hydrological functioning of the Ant Broads and Marshes SSSI, as a component part of The Broads SAC, Broadland SPA and Broadland Ramsar is likely to be maintained when considering the alone impacts from both the Plumsgate Road abstraction and Ludham Road abstraction.
The hydrological functioning of the European conservation sites could however be compromised by the current fully licensed (in-combination) level of abstraction. This is specifically in relation to the predicted water level change at Snipe Marsh.
The Environment Agency cannot conclude beyond reasonable scientific doubt no adverse effect from abstraction licences AN/034/0009/008 Plumsgate Road and AN/034/0009/009 Ludham Road on the Ant Broads and Marshes SSSI – component of The Broads SAC, Broadland SPA and Broadland Ramsar.‘
‘The EA cannot conclude that the abstractions will have no adverse effect on the integrity of The Broads SAC, Broadland SPA and Ramsar, when considered in-combination with other permissions. The recommendation to refuse the applications is based on the Habitats Directive in-combination assessment test and the enshrined ‘precautionary principle’. The EA, as the competent authority assessing the impact of the permissions, cannot be certain there is no impact in-combination on the European designated sites.‘
This is good. But in case the EA gets the jitters, we should tell them that it is good by emailing them on this address NPS-WR-Ipswich@environment-agency.gov.uk and saying something like this:
Dear Environment Agency
Catfield Fen abstraction renewals – public consultation.
I have read carefully the information that you have supplied on the EA’s ‘minded to’ decision not to renew the two abstraction licences near Catfield Fen. I very much approve of this change of position from the EA and only regret that you did not make it earlier.
These licences should never have been issued, and certainly should not have been approved for a further period of time, because of the high probability that such extraction is affecting the adjacent nature conservation sites of European importance. I don’t think that the EA has handled this matter with sufficient rigour or speed but am glad that you have now come to the only sensible conclusion. Please do not dither over this any more.