It’s a rare enough thing these days for new SSSIs to be notified – and now the West Pennine Moors has been notified. Actually, it’s already a day old.
Very wittily the document explaining this points out that it is a 7600+ha extension to three existing small SSSIs.
Read the documentation and it seems a no-brainer that this area of upland blanket bog etc should be notified and protected but it has taken decades for this to come about. It has taken an awful lot of hard work from a small number of locals over more than a decade to finish off the task. It really shouldn’t be such a struggle to get such an obviously important upland site notified. And that notification should, fingers crossed, protect it from damaging activities such as windfarm developments (of which I generally approve but location is everything) and built development.
SSSI status is not a guarantee of future protection, and actually, nor should it be, but it is a clear and firm signal to developers that this site will be difficult to change and they might be better off looking elsewhere to meet their needs. Unless you think that no land should be off limits, that is what the planning system and the designated site system is for.
So let’s raise a glass to the new West Pennine Moors SSSI and to those (who you notice I am not naming) who have worked to reach this day (or yesterday actually, but every day going forward too).
But whilst celebrating this site, let us also reflect on the fact that there are many more sites out there that need this form of protection. We are living with a protected area network that is decades out of date. It was set up to protect some wildlife – rich places – from being lost although now it seems that almost all of the richest places are already SSSIs.
But the wildlife NGOS should be arguing for a much larger area of land to be designated/notified. How about twice the current area of England receiving wildlife protection by the end of the 25-year government nature plan? The quality of the general countryside has declined so much since SSSIs appeared on the scene that we now need a much wider network of protected areas to save nature.
And we know that a much bigger network would allow more species to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change – a factor of huge importance that wasn’t even on the radar when SSSIs were dreamt up.
Why aren’t the Wildlife Trusts crying out for proper protection for the network of local wildlife sites, the best of which are now elevated to near the rank of many SSSIs decades ago? Shouldn’t the Sanctuary site have a proper national statutory designation that labels it as special for ever? Shouldn’t Fineshade Wood be protected for its excellence these days?
As a nation we need more ambition to save wildlife, and that won’t come from Defra, nor these days (sadly) from Natural England, so it should be coming from the wildlife NGOS but it is not.
And a last thought, all that nonsense about Gate Zero just makes me fear that the West Pennine Moors’ gain might be another deserving site’s loss. I’m glad that this blog has been able to help, just a little bit, to shine a light on the value of this site, but my fear is that that process might just have disadvantaged another site in these days when kindness to nature is rationed so sparingly. Can we have some more Sir? Please Sir?
Previous blogs on the West Pennine Moors: Natural England seem to have forgotten the West Pennine moors, 2 April 2015; West 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, West Pennine Moors, 10 October 2016.