West Pennine Moors

West Pennines-1

Natural England moves with the pace of a snail when it comes to protecting wildlife sites but with that of a cheetah when it comes to issuing licenses to bump off wildlife.

Because of NE foot-dragging in the area of Gate Zero there now appears to be a race against time to get the West Pennines Moor designated as an SSSI before a windfarm application is approved for one part of the site. NE were warned, but the guardians of our natural environment have had to be dragged shuffling and muttering to do their job.

The controversial windfarm application is opposed by almost everyone; NE itself, RSPB, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and over 400 residents when the proposal was first mooted. Sadly, in one of those green-on-green incidents, the local FoE group have supported it.

The next stage in the grindingly slow NE process is a week tomorrow but that might lead to the formal designation process consultation starting before Christmas. Meanwhile, the development proposal moves forward through the planning system as though there is nothing standing in its way.

As is often the case, the more the site is looked at, the more important it seems. Evidence for its importance for amphibians has grown enormously on the basis of some incomplete and poorly timed surveys.  Some parts of the site have exceptional amphibian populations and others may be outstanding.

I understand the developers have recently, very recently, sought to cast doubt on the quality of the blanket bog in the area of the windfarm, which they claim has been damaged over many years.  Let’s hope this last minute move by the developer merely delays the determination of their application to give adequate time for others to rebut their claims (and for NE to move on with the designation process).

There is no win-win result in this case.  If the site is designated,as it should have been years ago, and the windfarm proposal is refused, then tardiness by NE has wasted time and money for the developer, the taxpayer and for everyone else involved in the case. Site designation gives the certainty that developers need to direct their efforts at the places where they are most likely to succeed and prevent them from wasting time and money in fruitless planning applications. But if the windfarm is approved and goes ahead then NE’s slow internal processes are to blame.

nehouseThis blog has asked before whether NE is any longer fit for purpose and we ask it again.

I am hoping, but not hopeful, that NE will have submitted a complete analysis of their long-term study of Hen Harriers to the parliamentary inquiry into grouse shooting. After more than a decade of study they surely have something to say. And they will be able to bring MPs and the Committee up to date with Walshaw Moor and their abandoned court case.  Won’t they?


Previous blogs on the West Pennine Moors see Natural England seem to have forgotten the West Pennine moors, 2 April 2015West Pennine Moors, 12 June 2015; West Pennine Moors Again, 22 June 2015; Dear Natural England, 22 June 2015; Fair do’s, 22 June 2015; Gate Zero and the West Pennine Moors, 21 September 2015; What the frack? West Pennine Moors, 28 September 2015; A barn of special scientific interest? West Pennine Moors, 28 September 2015; West Pennine Moors complaint to NE over their response, 28 September 2015; Gate Zero and the West Pennine Moors, 5 October 2015, News: West Pennine Moors heading for notification, 20 January 2016.

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22 Replies to “West Pennine Moors”

  1. The developers claim the bog has been damaged over many years? I dread to think of what might happen if this windfarm gets the ok. The thin end of the wedge, I think. Other moors spring to mind that have been 'damaged' over the years and are now desolate of wildlife.
    Yes, Un-natural England indeed. A public enquiry is needed into their deriliction of duty and remit.

  2. Not surprised the local FoE group is pro wind farm. Earlier this year when I spoke to FoE Scotland about them having a campaign to deal with the bad estates was told by a member of their staff that they 'didn't want to dilute impact of their existing campaigns' that means climate change and fossil fuel divestment. Environmentalism has become a one trick pony and by god are we suffering for it.

    1. You are not wrong LW



  3. Do people dispute the need for renewable energy? And, following on, what forms of renewable energy do people think should be employed?

    There seems to be an automatic refusal to accept ANY forms of new renewables - on shore windfarms, off shore wind farms, gravity-hydro, solar farms, tidal hydro. Any and all applications are ALWAYS objected to on the grounds of wildlife damage or even 'spoiling of the view'.

    I'm genuinely curious as I believe myself an advocate for nature, but believe we really, really need to cut out fossil fuels. So how do we do it? What is the REAL impact on wildlife from windfarms (as opposed to hypothetical).

    I'm not sure building massive new nuclear plants and fracking more gas out the ground to burn in massive gas-powered stations is overly brilliant for wildlife either.

    1. CP - a lot of big questions there.

      Should renewable energy harm wildlife? We'd like it not to...

      Should wildlife concerns stop renewable energy? We'd like it not to...

      Can you have renewable energy and conserve wildlife? Yes - almost undoubtedly, but only by thinking about it quite hard, and often on a case by case basis.

      And btw, the footprint (on the ground that is) of a nuclear power station would be much less that that of the windfarms that would be needed to provide the same energy so 'massive' isn't the right word.

    2. We have not yet found a way of supplying society's energy requirements in a way that has no environmental impact and such a way almost certainly does not exist. The actual impact of any energy supply infrastructure will depend on a variety of things including the location and the effectiveness of measures undertaken to minimize and manage any adverse effects. I believe that wind energy can make a contribution to energy supply with relatively low impact but that does not mean that wind farms should go ahead wherever they are proposed as there are certainly locations where the environmental impact outweighs the benefit and cannot be satisfactorily reduced or mitigated. I don't think it is the case that conservation organisations oppose each and every renewable energy proposal but they are right to oppose those that will have substantial impacts on wildlife.
      Of course, if we don't want to have wind farms, hydro power, nuclear power stations, thermal power stations, fracking or open cast coal mines (and virtually no-one is ever happy to have any of these things proposed in their own neighbourhood) then we have to make serious reductions in our still profligate consumption of energy because every watt-hour we use in the house has to be generated somehow....

    3. I don't have anything at all against genuine, viable renewable energy - so mega hydro outfor starters, but annoyed that environmentalism now means little else but banging on about carbon emissions and precious little else. Given that there is a massive problem with biofuels and biomass the current drive for fossil fuel divestment (feels more like a holy crusade at times) means it is actually now more acceptable to burn forests than coal. I think the plot's been lost along the way, so much so that idiocies such as bottled water are growing. Wasteful and really bad re unnecessary use of energy.

    4. 'Do people dispute the need for renewable energy?......I'm not sure building massive new nuclear plants'


      The justification for windfarms is that they supposedly provide electricity without producing greenhouse gasses.

      Even if this is true, windfarms are not reliable. So we need a reliable back up supply.

      The only way of providing a back up supply that doesn't produce greenhouse gasses is nuclear.

      So, if your consistent, more wind farms = more nuclear.

      In which case, why bother with the windfarms? Just go for nuclear.No dirty great industrial structures cluttering up every bit of upland scenery.

    5. Whilst there are obviously issues with exactly what technology is used where, i do sympathise with you CP. I feel like all too often there is an outcry about the damage wind turbines or solar farms will have on wildlife, when in reality the sites people are trying to protect are not always of any real value (from a national/international perspective, I'll concede that they may well be locally important). In this particular case it looks like objections are the correct course of action for conservationists.

      Whilst I'll admit that I do not agree with absolutely every word of it, I'd recommend reading this: https://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/energy_vision_summary_report_tcm9-419580.pdf

      It is the RSPB's vision for energy production to 2050, and I'd love to see more stuff like it. Whilst it may not always be pleasant to consider, we do live in a world where environmental issues are rarely allowed to hinder development. Given that, I think that seeing a set of ideas for working with industry on these kind of projects can only be a good step forward.

    6. But there seems a possibility here that while opposing energy proposals, they are often minded to allow grouse-shooting interests to cause havoc. I would like to see Natural England's current 'mission statement' as it has no doubt been much altered by this government.

  4. NE are in some respects just like the shooters, they have got away with just doing what suits them best for thier own ends for far too long. It's time they were pressured into actually doing some work for the Natural part of England.

    1. Dave Dick made an very important point in RPUK yesterday, that driven grouse shooting was started on a basis of a predator eradication and as you imply they have never stopped. (I have probably read this before (in Inglorious?) but it may have got forgotten by me in the big picture.)
      Driven grouse shooting was originally based on what is now crime and still depends and profits from that crime.

  5. Surely NE are only doing what their political masters want them to do? I don't find it strange that NE would drag their feet over issues that adversely affect the hunting and shooting brigade given the sort of power these people have in the Conservative party in particular and the country in general. We have seen with the Lancashire fracking example that this government is quite willing to overthrow local decisions in the name of "economic development".
    On the subject of renewables versus nuclear, yes a wind farm has a greater footprint but the pollution possibilities over thousands of years, after this current civilization has gone,is much greater for nuclear.The debate about our energy security and future is just not being had.

    1. Exactly, Gerald. Everyone seems to completely forget about nuclear waste and decommissioning. Also the impacts of uranium mining. Cleaning up after the coal industry was expensive enough but in the main that was not toxic waste.
      We should be more careful about siting turbines but at least removing them if something better comes along is not a major problem. Why is it not compulsory to put solar on all suitable new roofs especially on factories, schools, agric. buildings etc.? Plus, increase the insulation for all buildings.

  6. Since this is about windfarms, are the objections scientifically valid or is it just a case of generic middle class windfarm hate? If the former, how bad would the damage be and is it worth letting the anti-windfarm mob (which has a major overlap with the pro-shooting mob, both being driven by upper middle class rage that someone else wants to use the countryside) score another ban and strengthen their position or would it be an acceptable trade off in losing part of the bog but scoring a win against them?

    1. Most land owners are in favour of windfarms.

      And no wonder, at £50k pa for each turbine, with no outlays.

      Enough there to pay a years school fees at a top public school with enough left over for one or two luxuries.

      What's not to like?

  7. The process by which the Nature Conservancy Council was split into English, Welsh and Scottish components and English Nature then got turned into NE had two constants. They were a desire to cut spending and the implicit demand by government for conservation bodies to be as obliging to the needs of developer and landowners as possible.

    So stories like this whilst they depress me no longer cause a shock.

    I fear that until and unless large numbers of folk start getting seriously stroppy with shooters, developers, agri-barons, the broken reeds of NE, and their political masters we are going to get more of the same. Niceness doesn't work with modern UK politicians.

  8. Mark, you asked if NE was fit for purpose. I'm old enough to remember the end of the NCC and it's been steadily downhill from there. Staff on the ground remain committed and in my experience very good within the constraints they operate under.

    However I'm less and less impressed with some of the more senior (mid level) staff I encounter nowadays - NE seem to have had very odd criteria for who lost their jobs and who remained. Almost like they didn't want anyone who would, you know, actually do anything...

    Also, for too many years it seems like the goal of maximising process has been far more important than any consideration of effectiveness - just look at the bureaucratic rabbit hole BAP disappeared down.

    All that said, I have a nasty feeling that NE is very much fit for purpose. The question is what purpose?

    Politicians of both stripes decided on a new and less inconvenient purpose for NE some years ago. It ain't about protecting wildlife any more, that's for sure.

    1. Muzzled Watchdog 1997. Loathsome Lapdog 2016?
      Need putting out of their misery? Then again perhaps they are there to deflect focus on real targets?

  9. So it's okay for the RSPB to object to a wind farm on an English hillside but have given cart blanch to developers to proliferate wind turbines on a massive scale over hill ranges which are far more sensitive environmentally that this one, but happen to be in Scotland.


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