This is the fifth blog post on this subject today; the other four have dealt with NE’s very tardy response to my FoI/EIR requests.
1. I started this enquiry by asking NE whether they had consented the culling of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Bowland Fells for 2017.
NE’s reply was that there was no signed consent in place for 2017 etc etc.
It appears that there was an extant consent available to the Abbeystead Estate which they could rely upon in 2017 (see the MoU and the HRA) – unless I have muisunderstood something, It’s possible that I have misunderstood something but I would say that is only because NE have given me a haystack, without letting me know whether there is a needle hidden in it, when I asked for a needle. By that I mean that NE said there was no signed consent but also sent me a voluminous pile of documents (for which I am grateful) without telling me that there was mention of an existing, persisting, consent in those documents. I’m not impressed by NE’s speed of response nor by the clarity of their response. I’ll probably mention that to them.
2. Why did the extant consent exist anyway? LBBG is clearly mentioned in the SPA description as a qualifying species. Why did NE (or its predecessor body) consent to the culling of a qualifying species in an SPA? Was this lawful? How did it come about? On what grounds was the consent granted?
3. And why did the SSSI/SPA Management Plan which was planned to come into force in June 2017, but was not signed by all parties, include areas where LBBGs could be killed and areas where they could not? By this time LBBG was certainly listed in the Standard Data Form on the JNCC website which is dated January 2016. Why was this not used as an opportunity to review all existing consents?
4. Or maybe, after this all came out into the open, the existing consents were reviewed and revoked as NE say that there is no consent in place for 2018 for the killing of LBBGs. Did that happen? And if so’ how and when did? And why did it not happen earlier?
5. NE have delayed answering my questions by saying that there was an investigation being undertaken. I have asked them what was the result of that investigation and what measures they are now taking.
6. Although the investigation was used as a reason not to answer my questions, the documents that NE have now sent me were in existence when I asked the question, do not name individuals or disclose any personal information. So why did NE not send me these very documents 12 months ago? I have asked them that too.
7. What agreements exist now for the management of the Bowland Fells SSSI/SPA?
4 Replies to “Bowland Gull Cull 19 – comments on NE’s response”
Mark you are brilliant. Keep it up!
Whether your diligence gets to the bottom of this in a way we can understand Mark, is still open to question. What is not is that this should be embarrassing the hell out of NE, although they may have no conscience or be wilfully blind. Perhaps when we ( you! ) have finally got to the bottom of this very grubby affair we should go direct and tell the minister.
In the Peregrine territory closest to Tarnbrook I once found a LBBG on the regular plucking post. that peregrine territory is currently unoccupied too.
The level of obscuration you have encountered in getting this extremely belated response from NE surely means that you can ask the Information Commissioner for a ruling on the grounds of NE failing to respond anywhere near adequately to a straightforward submission to a relevant and timely FoI request from a public body.
We need to stop them, and their lawyers, playing games with us.
From my reading of the stuff you have put on line it seems that the Estate(s?) had an old fashioned unlimited consent which had not been revoked nor superseded by the agreement. (unless they have simply given you a blank version of the agreement to avoid having to redact the signatures- which would be unlikely)
Natural England are the people in trouble here. They should have reviewed and revoked the unlimited consent as soon as the classification was proposed.
They then failed to close the sign up of the memorandum of understanding which would only have given the gulls partial protection, leaving the old consent in place, themselves exposed and the gulls dead.
It seems that there is an administrative breach of the birds directive which NE seem reluctant to address. ( LBBG’s do not have special species protection status just because they are inside the SPA. It is a fault fin our species protection legislation that makes the presumption that there are no circumstances where you need to conserve species which areotherwise listed as vermin)
So what steps are NE taking to address this breach of the directive?
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