Blog posts titled Wuthering Moors are about the issue of burning of blanket bogs by grouse shooting estates (e.g. Wuthering Moors 28, 15 October 2012), the inability of the government agency Natural England to do its job properly on regulating landowners on protected moorland sites (Wuthering Moors 68 – the background to an unlawful decision, 11 May 2018 and Wuthering Moors 67 – a significant victory, 10 May 2018) , and the pickle into which the UK government has got itself with the European Commission over its poor implementation of the Habitats Directive (eg Wuthering Moors 70 – EU infraction proceedings, 13 August 2018).
Here are some photographs, all taken by the wonderful Bob Berzins, taken at the weekend, of areas of Walshaw Moor which have been burned since the start of this year’s burning season (1 October).
Walshaw Moor Estate does not appear to be a signatory of the non-binding and riddled-with-holes MoU which Michael Gove and Defra have been touting around grouse shooting estates in order to try to convince the European Commission that Defra/NE/Gove/Coffey have got a grip on damaging burning of blanket bog (even though they haven’t got a grip of anything that happens on grouse moors). So they haven’t said that they won’t burn blanket bogs. The two images above don’t look like blanket bog to me – but they also don’t look like they will be helping to prevent downstream flooding.
Walshaw Moor Estate has signed an agreement with Natural England on the management of the estate but, as this blog revealed, that agreement had a clause in it which meant that it would only come into operation when a track across the protected blanket bog was given planning permission. My legal challenge (supported by many of you) of the Habitats Regulation Assessment that underpinned that agreement between NE and the estate showed that it was unlawful and so no agreement currently exists and no planning permission has been given for the track and so, as I understand it, Walshaw Moor Estate can rely on existing consents to carry on burning blanket bog in damaging ways, against Defra’s wishes and against the instructions of the European Commission.
The two images below do look like blanket bog and I’m sure NE will be checking their maps of peat depth to check whether or not they are. However, some comments on social media have suggested that this burning is illegal – for the reasons given above I don’t believe it is illegal, but, assuming it is burning of blanket bog, it clearly is sticking two fingers up at Michael Gove, Natural England and the European Commission.
If there are many grouse moors behaving in this manner then it will demonstrate that the ‘Come on chaps, play the game, lay off burning blanket bogs’ approach has failed – as has the ‘Come on chaps, play the game, stop shooting raptors’ approach – and then Michael Gove will have to live up to the promise, made in private but flushed out in public by the quite wonderful Guy Shrubsole, that if rotational burning of blanket bog does not cease then legislation will have to be brought in to ensure that it does cease.