Alan Parfitt made a good point in a comment here yesterday – SSSIs were originally meant to be good examples of fine habitats rather than a complete coverage of such habitats. Increasingly, they are the last remnants of those habitats and have remained largely because of their SSSI status.
This is good news (the designation worked to protect these sites) and bad news (where did all the other, equally good, but undesignated sites go?).
Site protection is a cornerstone of nature conservation – it can’t do everything but it can do a lot. And by the way, let’s not forget, particularly when it comes to May next year in the voting booth, how poor has been the coalition government’s record on implementing marine site protection.
The news, yesterday, of the continuing loss of local wildlife sites suggests that we need a rethink on site protection. Surely we need many of those local wildlife sites upgraded to SSSIs in order better to ensure their protection? It seems pretty obvious – why aren’t the NGOs banging on about this rather more?
Although there is a tendency for the rich and powerful to find a way around legislation that hems in the poorer weaker individual, it was, I think, good to see that the owner of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Philip Day, lost his appeals against sentence and fine in the London Criminal Appeals Court. Mr Day, it seems, has enough money to take this fight further to the Supreme Court, as is his right.
The fine, of £450,000, is certainly a heavy one and the legal costs are of a similar order it seems. But then, how do you value an ancient woodland that has been devastated to facilitate pheasant shooting? You can’t bring back ancient woodland by signing a cheque, however rich you are. For reports of the case see here and here.
I’m not legally trained (I’m hardly house-trained, some say) but this case seems in stark contrast to that of Walshaw Moor where a rich bird shooter also carried out actions that appeared to Natural England originally seriously to damage an SSSI. What, I wonder, is happening in the RSPB’s complaint to Europe over the Walshaw Moor case and its implications for burning on designated blanket bogs?