Interesting figures on SSSI status

https://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/northamptonshires-natural-treasures-under-threat-1370722

This was in my local(-ish) paper but it seems to be the Northants tip of a national iceberg. In the olden days it would have been an NGO that did this anlysis but not now – I wonder why not?

The basic story is that Natural England isn’t doing its job properly in acting as a regulator which monitors SSSIs and ensures that they are properly managed for the wildlife they contain. And whilst it is true that Natural England’s budget has been cut to the bone by an environmentally uncaring government, that isn’t a good enough reason to let NE off the hook completely. Why is NE not compiling and publishing these figures themselves? SSSIs are a core area of their responsibility. And while NE is crowdfunding for pointless projects such as a hen harrier reintroduction it will get little sympathy from me about their focus on the essential tasks – they aren’t focussing on the essential tasks.

It seems like this story is being rolled out bit by bit across the country – I haven’t yet found a nationwide report – I’d love to see it. And it’s not just for England. Somebody has put a lot of work in here and I ask again, why wasn’t it an NGO like the Wildlife Trusts or RSPB?

Government is failing to ensure the protection and proper management of our best wildlife sites. I didn’t vote for them – did you?

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14 Replies to “Interesting figures on SSSI status”

  1. My local SSI is Baby Woods. Over the last decade it has been destroyed by its owners. They have removed nearly all the very large Scots Pine, oaks and beeches for timber.
    Gone are the Goshawks, Nightingales and even the odd Nightjar!
    How they have got away with this I really don't know. I was told that they were receiving a grant to carry out the work!
    Tax payer funding the destruction of the habitat!

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  2. DEFRA have data for Local Sites (County Wildlife Sites) which can be found here.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/env10-local-sites-in-positive-conservation-management?utm_source=45ae9b83-55f6-4cf2-90e4-9e694dc02e6d&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

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    1. Local Wildlife sites are the next tier down from SSSI and have no formal protection. There is an obligation on local authorities to produce this condition info each year, and theu usually have a county environmental records centre or similar to collate it. That is nothing to do with Natural England site condition monitoring. Its is, in itself a somewhat artifical exercise (unless its improved since I last did one in 2014) and involves no site visit work at all. Its nice of defra to pool all of that local authority data into one place.

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      1. NE have pulled support from records centres and local authorities are cutting ecologist posts. Prior to austerity and ongoing cuts local sites did receive visits and the LA would accept data from reliable local field naturalists. Suspect it's a bit like a postcode lottery and pressure from developers for land etc.

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  3. No, I didn't vote for this government either Mark. But let's not lose sight of why we have this government. Labour party members had the chance to remove Jeremy Corbyn after Labour MPs voted they had no confidence in him. They didn't take it. If they had, history might have been very different. Have the members who remain learnt any lessons I wonder - we shall soon see!

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    1. If you are going to indulge in counter factual narratives why not consider this one?

      What if, once they had tried, and failed, to get rid of Corbyn, the PLP, and the cabal of Blairite former politicians (Blair, Mandelson, Campbell, Johnstone etc) had either backed Corbyn, or at least had shut up, rather than devoting every minute of their existence to undermining him, then just maybe things might have gone differently.

      That was never going to happen though was it?

      To those people no price was too high to avoid a Corbyn Government.

      They were quite happy to try to split the Labour Party (that went well, didn't it?), they were content to see a Tory Government and Brexit. All of these things were to be preferred to a Corbyn Government.

      You should asked yourself just what their motivation was. What, specifically were they afraid of?

      And it would be interesting to know just who you think could have replaced Corbyn and would have performed better than him in a Brexit election.

      Lucian Berger?
      Chuka Umunna?
      Margaret Hodge?
      Owen Smith?

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      1. Thanks De. You seem to know all about counter-factual narratives! It was Corbyn's choice (with misguided Lib Dem help and SNP self-interest) to have a Brexit election btw - Tony Blair warned him against it.

        I have never been a member of the Labour party (although I have voted Labour) but I think Chuka would have made a good party leader and PM.

        If the next election takes place in 5 years time Tony Blair will be the only Labour leader to have won a general election in the last 50 years. If that doesn't tell party members what kind of leader they need, nothing will.

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        1. Once the SNP and Lib Dems had decided, for their own reasons (for the former to get the election out of the way before Salmond's trial started, and to minimise the chance of a Corbyn government, a nightmare scenario for them, and for the latter the delusion that they were a government in waiting) to support the Tories, an early election was inevitable. There was nothing Labour could have done to stop it. And to have opposed it would have led to accusations of cowardice.

          Which all makes Blair's criticism somewhat curious.

          It's almost like he's being disingenuous, or attempting to hoodwink the less well informed among us.

          As for Umunna, I struggle to imagine just what appeal he would have had to the alienated and disenchanted Labour supporters who voted Farage or Tory.

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          1. The Tories were super-keen to have an election while Corbyn was still Labour leader. He walked straight into the trap.

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          2. 'The Tories were super-keen to have an election while Corbyn was still Labour leader. He walked straight into the trap.'

            I'm afraid you've lost me there.

            Given that the SNP and Lib Dems had decided to support the Tories there was nothing Labour could have done to stop an early election.

            So how are you suggesting Corbyn could have avoided walking into a trap? What steps should he have taken?

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  4. Natural England are insisting that scrub (sizeable hawthorn and willow) is removed from a local but nationally important SSSI & Natura 2000 site, then they have facilitated the planting of plastic tubes & whips to encourage scrub on arable reversion (better suited to lagg fen) immediately on its boundary.

    They are funding this work without any survey or EIA, the organisation in receipt of the funding arguing that the works are essential to bring into favourable condition. Yet, there is no management plan which accommodates some extremely rare (nationally) and significant species.

    This same site was signed off as unfavourable recovering without any works because a Water Level Management Plan had been agreed. The WLMP is not effectively monitored, perhaps because NE would surely realise that rewetting has impacted upon SPA interest (nightjar) as well as other protected species (eg adder).

    Set aside any few committed staff who remain, how do we get the public funded 'guardian' and monitor back on track, or are we better calling for it to be culled completely? Then at least the Government can't claim to have an organisation caring/promoting etc.

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    1. If the species for which the SSSI designation is formally made dont like scrub, then yes, there will be pressure to remove it to get the site in favourable condition FOR the designated species. SSSI designated species or assembalges wont be everything on site and wont necessarily be the rarest or most vulnerable species on site. Its a system and the sites have to fit into it, no matter how stupid.

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      1. Can't fathom why removal and planting, as you suggest any management works ought to focus on the very limited species NE have identified. Why complicate matters and take account of assemblages which might include national rarities or significant species which are in decline:)

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    2. The problem is that a large proportion of the skilled staff left (having given up on the previous hopeless management). Now there are good people at the top but no budget to replace the staff that left. We need to stand together and campaign for NE's budget cuts (which add up to well over 60%) to be reversed....otherwise we are playing into this government's hands - who would love nothing better than to abolish NE altogether and have a free hand to develop all those nice bits of designated land. With a good chance that they will try to water down the protection of European Sites, now is the worst possible moment for us to be conned into thinking we don't need an official regulator. Don't fall for it!

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