Here is the response to the email from the previous blog post:
Sorry for the delay in my response. I have been getting some advice on the issue from our environmental health team.
As you are well aware heather burning is a legal activity subject to the Heather and Grass (Burning) Regulations (as amended) 1987. The regulations are summarised in the Defra Heather and Grass Burning Code 2007 which is a voluntary code of best practice adopted by most moorland estates and is available online.
The National Park Authority supports careful and lawful burning as it is an essential management tool for our heather moorlands. Cutting is the only alternative to burning but can only be carried out where vehicle access allows and where it does not pose a threat to the unique and important archaeological remains on the moors. Burning is not always appropriate on blanket bog but due to its low altitude and low rainfall the North York Moors has very little of this habitat.
On the North York Moors heather burning is carried out primarily by game shooting estates to create patchworks of different aged heather on which red grouse thrive. This not only maintains the moorland landscape that we know and value but also reduces the risk of wildfire, creates young shoots for sheep to eat and benefits many species of wading bird.
The Special Protection Area, which covers the majority of the North York Moors moorland, was designated in recognition of the international importance of this area for Golden Plover and Merlin which both rely on the open and managed nature of our moorland. Not burning would increase the tree cover on the moor which would have a negative effect on these birds and many other species of moorland wildlife. Climate change predictions suggest that wildfires will be more frequent and more serious so well managed burning is a vital way of reducing fire risk which can result in long term habitat destruction as well as risk to people and property.
If you give me permission, I will write to *********, inform him of the problem and ask him to have some consideration when burning in windy conditions.
Well if that doesn’t sound like an advert for driven grouse shooting I don’t know what does. And that is from a district council responding to one of their resident’s complaint about smoke nuisance affecting their life and home.
Where was the advice on environmental health? It sounded like – breathe in the smoke and fumes and put up with it – it’s essential for the environment. Whatever did the environment do before men in tweed torched the moors? And how do Golden Plover and Merlin survive throughout the rest if their world range without all that burning, and indeed for all those thousands of years before we invented driven grouse shooting? It’s a puzzle isn’t it?
The sooner that DEFRA sorts this out the better.