Natural England – you need to look in the mirror

Our latest victory to protect moorland habitat was a victory against Natural England, the government agency and regulator whose job it is to protect such habitats.

Just read that sentence again.

The government agency which we pay to protect the environment has been forced, eventually, to do the right thing because of a legal challenge taken by an individual. How low has Natural England fallen?

This was not a technical error, a mere slip-up, by NE – I believe this was a deliberate decision somewhere in the organisation to pander to shooting and landowner interests at the expense of the environment and public interest. If I am right, that is a corrupt system that can no longer command public support or respect.

The new interim Natural England Chief Executive, Marian Spain, should institute an enquiry into what went wrong here, heads should roll and a statement be made about how Natural England will put its house in order.

Natural England’s Board should ensure that this matter is not ignored or papered over but is investigated and resolved. We cannot expect the landowner and shooting representatives on Natural England’s Board to push for this so it will fall to the likes of the BTO’s Chief Executive, Andy Clements, the former head of the Wildlife Trusts, Simon Lyster, and the newest Board members to ensure that this scandal is investigated.

While Ms Spain and the Board are at it, they should look at whether the recent paper they received on restoration burning is fit for purpose and whether it fully reflects the views of their specialists or has it been watered down by the internal system, why Natural England’s Hen Harrier tagging analysis has still not been published and why it has taken so long even to be analysed, why Natural England has not been tough with landowners to prevent burning of protected blanket bogs, why Hen Harriers fail to nest successfully at Walshaw Moor, and why Natural England has licensed brood-meddling of Hen Harriers at the demand of grouse shooters and against the opposition of nature conservationists.

Natural England must ask itself how it came to pander to powerful interest groups in the uplands and to turn its back on its regulatory duties, the environment and the public it is there to serve.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

12 Replies to “Natural England – you need to look in the mirror”

  1. Fantastic Mark and All and yes great questions to current Board. Simon Lyster is a lawyer and expert on Birds and Habitats Directive etc. - I think he and Alistair Gammell had just helped RSPB and others win Duich Moss about the time you and I joined RSPB! And his book was 'the bible' on wildlife law as I recall. So he has a good track record to maintain .....

  2. You're right of course, regarding the organisation, considered as a unit, but if you're talking about actual human beings, it's the few people at the top presumably, or even the government (defra is it?) who are responsible. I return to my thought about NE's predecessors having been QUANGOs (quasi-autonomous....).

    The executive arm of government pays for the judiciary without telling it what to do - it's part of the checks and balances of government in it's widest sense. Should be the same for NE, SNH, etc.

  3. "landowner and shooting representatives on Natural England's board"........ I can understand landowner representatives but why should there be any shooting representatives on the Natural England Board?

    I would love to know who they are, please?

    1. Teresa Dent is CEO of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. I suppose that since shooting for sport is a legitimate (in the sense of permissible within the law, I am not making any ethical judgements about it) there are no particular grounds for shooting interests to be excluded from representation on NE's board. Equally, there is also no reason why shooting interests must be represented on the board : there are countless countryside activities whose interests may intersect with the remit of NE and most of whom are not specifically represented on its board.


  4. "I believe this was a deliberate decision somewhere in the organisation to pander to shooting and landowner interests at the expense of the environment and public interest. If I am right, that is a corrupt system that can no longer command public support or respect."
    After what has happened you have every right to make this statement of belief.
    It will not sway this government in it's quest to get rid of all the green crap, but it should be celebrated and, if possible, reinforced.

  5. Mark - excellent work on Walshaw. Your 'track' record is impressive (sorry)!

    On a serious note, I too cannot imagine the likes of Andy Clements and Simon Lyster really sitting comfortably with the state that NE is in. I will again be assisting Tom Langton and his legal team against NE in the High Court in a month's time on an issue that transcends badger culling and goes to the very heart of the rot within NE. I would suggest Andy Clements and Simon Lyster might request the court papers from Julie Lunt and see if NE's pleadings and defence to our challenge seem like an organisation that is really convinced it is doing the right thing by site protection, or merely an organisation that will do anything and argue anything to try and get itself off the hook when it has been found out.

  6. I couldn't agree more Mark.It will be interesting to see how the dynamics unfold now between the Walshaw Moor Estate and Natural England ! The New CE Marian Spain has got a rather tall order of getting out of this downwards spiral and total lack of Confidence and Trust that is currently bestowed on Natural England by a lot of the General Public after this fiasco.

  7. I see from their website that NE's next board meeting is on 20 February at Natural England, Foss House, Kings Pool, 1-2 Peasholme Green, York and is open to the public. I wonder if it's possible for a knowledgable and well-briefed observer to go along and ask a few pertinent questions .....

  8. Thank for the direct link to the NE Board, Mark. Well, after reading their brief cv's, I wonder how it is that this state of affairs ever occurred! I hope they are 'pulling up their socks' at the very least, especially in view of what the future may hold, and ensuring that any 'rot' is scoured out of the organization. The buck stops with them!

  9. If this is not a deliberate attempt by N.E to pander to the interests of D.G.S industry by ignoring their duty to protect OUR natural heritage then they better get to the bottom of the fiasco of why the Walshaw track was initially deemed as causing negligible damage to this most heavily protected site. I found myself in animated agreement to all you said Mark.!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.