West Pennine Moors

West Pennines-1From what I hear and read, there is little movement on the notification of the West Pennine Moors as an SSSI (see previous blog).

Natural England say that: We are here to secure a healthy natural environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England’s traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.

So, how about notifying as an SSSI an outstanding area of moorland that your staff say qualifies on all counts?

Is Natural England fit for purpose these days? And does the senior management of NE have a grip on the organisation? And is that grip around its throat?

NATURALENGLAND2The suspicion is that notification of new sites is halted because it will be difficult to meet targets on SSSI condition if new sites of particular sorts are added to the SSSI complement. I’m normally pretty much in favour of targets, to keep people honest, but in this case there is a danger that it has the opposite effect.

Huge amounts of resource (including lots of volunteer survey effort) have been spent on this site and it remains unprotected by the statutory agency whose job it is to ensure its protection.  I say again, is Natural England fit for purpose?

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15 Replies to “West Pennine Moors”

  1. Mark, you are quite right to question whether Natural England is now fit for purpose but be careful what you ask for, as if conservationists want change then any 'new' body set up by government could be much worse with even less influence than currently is the case.

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    1. Pete Johnstone - maybe we don't need a new body (but maybe we do) - but maybe we need leadership from the top of NE and from Defra. And maybe we need a NE whose focus is on nature and the taxpayers.

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      1. So how do we reform Defra when in reality it like the agencies it 'manages' will be filled with 'politicians' or their aspirational minions?

        Focus on nature / wildlife / environment / conservation / upholding the law - we can dream? Value for taxpayers, likewise a dream?

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  2. In a word NO, but we do have to take on board Pete Johnsone's comment.

    Energy spent trying to work with an evolved 'Muzzled Watch-dog' to today's emaciated excuse (yes, I'm sure there are some good grass roots staff) is energy better expended challenging the issue of the moment.

    Perhaps they simply become the agri-welfare service (aka RPA)? As for 'protection' - weak words over Hen Harrier, SSSI review and progress is now DNR for sure: a disgrace! Open Access is making NNRs into country parks for the dog walkers, cyclists, horse riders, motor bikes - hard luck to wildlife, people and places for delightful Robins but not Hen Harriers or other special species?

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    1. "the agri-welfare service (aka RPA)"

      ... a coin with two faces. They are tasked with searching for non-compliant uncrossed "t"s and undotted "i"s in order to reduce or eliminate payment

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      1. They are but when you give them it on a plate, i.e. breach of cross compliance and damage to SSSI, along with evidence what do they do?

        Nothing. That's NE & the RPA. Public money, yeah they keep on taking it .... all of them!

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  3. Of course NE aren't fit for purpose because they are too closely under the control of Defra....who in turn are under the control of the large landowners and farming representatives. But I agree we need to be careful what we ask for - further mergers (probably the most likely response to generalised criticism of NE) would, I think dilute and weaken the nature conservation voice even more. What we need is the restoration of NE's independence and expertise.

    We have an independent office of budget responsibility. If government refuse to have an independent nature conservation body - what does it say about their commitment to conservation?

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    1. Their (NE) current hierachy ain't fit for purpose so we don't need that bunch to gain independence, replace 'em with people with appropriate experience and expertise in science and nature conservation. Business accumen low on priorities, political aspirations even lower (ok, understanding of 'problems' with politics might help)?

      Current government & nature conservation, poles apart as the environment is a costed resource and they probably think or been told by WTO advocates that technology will find a fix for their woes (and s** the rest)?

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      1. I agree that they need replacing but there is no way that is going to happen until NE has its independence restored.

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  4. Once upon a time there was an agency with guiding lights at the top that actually (really) cared about the environment and were proud to be called Nature Conservationists. Natural England is falling apart, significant of its staff are totally disillusioned, staff surveys show morale at rock bottom and little faith in senior management. Check out board meeting minutes. A sad state of affairs.
    And now on the honours list, for all their fantastic work for nature conservation, the guru of the discredited bio-diversity offsetting and the Chief executive of Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. May be Terasa Dent could enlighten us as to what is happening on upland moors with harriers and serious damage to the fabric of the habitat. Isn’t NE supposed to support Ecosystem services? Is anyone at the top in NE going to take a lead and stand up for the environment?
    Does it have a future? Not if nobody cares and clearly they don't. Simply, they are no longer champions of the environment. Of course they are no longer allowed to be, but that’s a different story.

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    1. I wonder why the government just don't auction off the various knighthoods, place in the Lords (£300 a day) etc.

      It would help reduce the national debt. and at least done that way it would be 'transparent' and we could see the deal. I suppose like all the other family silver it would be at knock down mates rates?

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  5. Notification of WPM as SSSI is irrelevant in terms of protection if you consider existing SSSI / SPA such as N. Yorks Moors where very large amounts of public subsidy are being given to landowners by NE via HLS for inappropriate intensive management by burning to provide a 'shootable surplus' of Red Grouse at the expense of the species that the moorland is notified for such as Merlin. Do a Freedom of Information request to NE to get the full picture.

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