Wuthering Moors 78 – NE and Defra must act

This post is about damaging tracks, past and present, on protected moorland.

I’d like to take you back in time on Walshaw Moor.

This photograph was posted on this blog in Wuthering Moors 39, 13 September 2013. 

I pointed out that this place was marked on the OS map as a stream but now (in 2013) it seems to be a track.

I can point this area out to you on the Walshaw Moor Catchment Restoration Plan map here…

We are looking at the area to the bottom left of the left hand corner of the black box on the map above.  This bit…

Yes, all a bit fuzzy but we can do better than that.  Here is the most recent satellite image from Google Earth (June 2018)…

Yep, there are the two tracks and the lower one, the left hand arm of the wonky Y shape, is the one in the photograph.

Here is the same place in 2006 (also from Google Earth)…

Same tracks in the same place.

But lo! through the wonders of satellite imagery we can have a look at the same area in 2003 (also from Google Earth)…

No tracks this time – just a stream, or sike, or syke.

It’s very obvious that someone built some tracks here.  Here is the relevant area from the JNCC MAGIC system.  You can see the tracks on the OS map.

I’d like you to glance at the top left hand area of this map (a part of the Walshaw Moor estate with which you should now be becoming a bit familiar).  See the name Warcock Hill?  I wonder what a Warcock is?

This seems to be the area where the estate plans to ‘mitigate’ the impacts of the new track, the completely new track which hasn’t been built yet (and I hope never will be) by restoring the blanket bog.  Basically the estate is saying that the damage done by building a new track (the one highlighted in the black box on the map higher up this post) will be offset by doing some habitat improvement down in this part of the estate.  See here from the planning application papers

Well that’s interesting.  This part of the SSSI (Unit 51) is in Unfavourable No Change condition – I can show you that on MAGIC because it’s an alarming orange colour…

So my understanding is that’s not legal.  You cannot use restoration of the habitat in one damaged part of an SSSI/SPA/SAC as mitigation for damaging another part of the SSSI/SPA/SAC.  You can see why that isn’t allowed – it’s just moving the damage around rather than repairing it.  You’d have to be taking the mickey to suggest such a thing.

If we have a look at SSSI Unit 51 we find that an NE staff member, Andrew Clark, rather pithily commented that for Unit 51:

Restoration works are required to ameliorate the loss and damage to habitat as a result of unconsented operations. Enforcement action is being undertaken to address this issue.

That damage is going to include building tracks, turning circles, grouse butts and drainage etc etc. the enforcement action mentioned is presumably the court case that NE took and which collapsed in 2012.  It is difficult to know how much of the issue was addressed.

So, many years ago this grouse shooting estate carried out unconsented actions and it is not clear how much of the habitat damage has been dealt with.  Some of those damaging actions were certainly carried out in Unit 51.  The estate has been paid large amounts of public money in order to repair some of the damage but NE and Defra have admitted that not all of the damage will be repaired under their agreement with the estate.  Now the estate wants to build another track which will cause some more damage.  NE consented that track through a Habitats Regulations Assessment which my (our) legal action showed to be unlawful back in May this year. 

The estate has now re-applied for planning permission and come up with a plan for mitigation of the damage of the new proposed track which involves carrying out works on a part of its land which was damaged in the past by unconsented operations, and which is in Unfavourable condition, and which the estate has an obligation to get back into Favourable condition (new track or no new track), and which NE has a duty to enforce.

NE must simply object to this planning application and/or tell the two planning authorities involved that they cannot consent the track.  And Defra must ensure that this happens.

Or we must.

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23 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 78 – NE and Defra must act”

  1. I do agree with the "we must." I feel so helpless because I have no real knowledge of the technical issues here (although reading your blog certainly helps somewhat) and in any event I live in a different country with it's own problems on similar issues.
    Realistically, I can only do my bit for "we must" financially and that cannot be much.
    "We" should not need to do this. The bodies appointed, DEFRA and NE should be leading on this, and assisting the local authority. If they do not object, they would be seen to be conspiring with the estate applicant at the highest level, despite the efforts of those at the coal face, if I have understood this correctly.
    Perhaps you have revealed enough to stop this particular rot. I hope so.
    What a mess this country is in!

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  2. I will starve for a week and give you the money saved to help fund anything you can think of to stop this! We've had far more than enough of driven grouse moors 'cocking a snook' at the law and conservation.... and, in the process, my/our Grandchildren and their rights to see as natural and complete an environment as possible! Anyone harming my Grandchildren's future makes me really, really, really angry. Brilliant work re maps and records!

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  3. Do so agree that this country is in one hell of a mess.
    Perhaps the new lady CEO of Natural England will really make her mark by taking a decisive stand on this and say that all possible measures will be taken by NE to stop this desecration of a fully protected area. Whether she will be back up by DEFRA is another matter. Too many times DEFRA has sided with the shooting industry.
    What a disgrace it all is, and our wildlife on driven grouse moors continues to suffer terribly.

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  4. And this is the same estate that sets its modern grouse butts level with the ground, thereby allowing frogs to jump/fall in with no means of escape. What a horrible way to die.
    Like Alex and Mairi above, you would have my financial support in the absence of being able to do anything positive. I’m sure many would feel the same way.

    Another great piece of detective work.

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    1. Spot on there Paul,also I know for a fact that uNatural England were shown pics of dead Voles,Moles,Frogs,Newts in those very same Giant Pitfall Traps ie the grouse butts on Heather Hill,and they did not want to know about it,tells us everything !

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  5. NE ( on behalf of the UK government) have an obligation to get unfavourable land into a favorable condition - and they do not need to consider losing some area to track construction as a trade off. Beyond offering carrots (grants) they have the legal tools to make it happen.
    The only potential loophole would be an argument that says "the track is necessary for the conservation management of the site" . Regular vehicular access is not necessary for this purpose. So there is no argument.

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  6. Scandalous in the first place that stream beds turned into tracks have not had to be restored back to streams. This must all be objected to according to DEFRA and NEs own rules. Lets hope that your and our interest in this ensures it does.
    I think but cannot be sure that a war cock is a black grouse, as is a moor cock. In North Yorkshire there are a number of places marked on ,aps as Cock lake, the areas thus marked must have been black grouse leks or where they were regularly seen. Whilst there are black grouse in the dales most such named places no longer have them. They used to be very unpopular on some red grouse shoots and were thus got rid of, certainly in Nidderdale ( where they have been reintroduced) and Bowland.

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      1. She has a PhD so she's clearly not an idiot, which makes her refusal to accept the evidence even more damning.

        But this raises an interesting question. She may be utterly indifferent to wildlife crime and indeed wildlife generally, but she works for Gove who has made a lot of the right noises. If he wants us to believe he is sincere, why hasn't he instructed her to pull her finger out and do something?

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        1. jbc - well, it's difficult to believe that Gove hasn't noticed/been told what is going on and so he appears not to give a damn. That is my working hypothesis, anyway.

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          1. Sadly, Mark, I agree. Coming to believe he's been shopping at the bullshit supermarket, and earlier words were simply a big, big, con to fool the green( as in gullible), naive conservationists that he assumes we all are.

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  7. I will object to the application. Just wondering if you can clarify something Mark? Has NE done a new Habitat Regs Assessment? I looked at the planning documents last week and only saw the old one which as you point out is invalid/"unlawful?" Can a development go ahead on an SAC/SPA site without a valid Habitat Regs Assessment? Could your (our) legal team write to the planners and get the application stopped on this basis? Happy to contribute if the kitty is empty.

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    1. Bob - thanks. My (our) lawyers have written to NE asking that question. By what NE said when they admitted that the previous HRA was duff they were going to share it with me when ready. So it seems not but we are checking.

      Perhaps NE are leaving it to the Local Planning Authority to carry out a HRA? How odd would that be? Statutory nature conservation agency washes hands of wildlife law role? So, let's wait and see.

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      1. As Circus Maxima says, it is the job of the decision-making authority to do the HRA. So if it needs SSSI consent it is NE's job, if it needs planning permission it is the Planning Authority's job. In the latter case, NE would be a consulted, advising the Planning Authority on the content and conclusions of the HRA.

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        1. Greenfly - I’m convinced. So I should expect NE to have done that publicly? Visible in the documents on the LPA website?

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          1. In Scotland, we would expect all planning consultation responses to be put onto the online planning page. the only problem is that NE might leave it to the close of the consultation period before they submit their consultation return so it might be only available for a few days or hours before the public consultation closes. Why not write to the planning authority and NE and ask both for an email copy of their advice as soon as its available?

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          2. Anyone granting a consent, permission etc will need to do a HRA and potentially an AA within that. When there's more than one competent authority - as there is in this case, NE and the LPA - normal practice would be to combine forces and do it together. Quite often this is done once documents are submitted so it's not unusual not to see an HRA/AA yet - but one will have to be done before a decision can be taken. It's normal for this to be put in the public domain but not actually a legal requirement as I understand it. Gov expects them to be in the public domain. I'd guess NE would lead on the HRA/AA and you just need to badger them to publish it asap.

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  8. We know from her previous utterances that Coffey either doesn't understand or more likely doesn't give a damn.
    Perhaps her boss Gove should when he took the job at DEFRA and made all the right sort of noises said that, however all his apparently good words will come to nought if it impinges on the rights of rich folk (who may donate to the Tory party) whose pleasure is to blast hundreds if not thousands of game birds, native or introduced, out of the sky for fun. With, no doubt, toxic lead shot.
    I'd take it all for the various transgressions into public ownership, with no compensation and turn it all into an upland wildlife reserve. Hen Harriers might then nest successfully in the absence of rogues in tweed.

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  9. If you had a really cynical frame of mind, you might wonder if trapped exposed frogs could prove attractive to any flying predators that might take frogs, encouraging them to fly directly over the butts....

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  10. Not odd! The hra should be undertaken by the competent authority. As this is a planning application...NE should advise on the content of the appraisal and on the completed work. The applicant should supply all of the information to the appropriate standard. (Possibly even presenting it as a report with recommendations!) Then council takes it all in and undertakes the assessment.
    NE are the competent authority for muirburn applications. Ditches are less clear... they are engineering works so should require planning approval...but outside European sites they are permitted development and this confusion normally means the NE just consent activity.

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  11. It is scandalous what this estate has been allowed to get away with.The grouse butts that have been built into deep peat are flush with the ground.On OS maps these butts are not historical and were built without permission.Natural England have been told about them and that frogs and newts die in them regularly,but they have done nothing to mitigate this nor showed any concern.Quads and Half track machines (with massive tank like tyres) move all over the moors on this estate freely not on any existing tracks on a regular often daily basis .
    This track must be fought on every level and if further funds are needed there will be plenty of people willing to give.This is driven Grouse shooting vandalism at it's most extreme.Thank you Mark and everyone else who keeps it in the public eye.

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