HELP: Please sign our on line petition STOP & RETHINK

Readers may recall our post about blogging being good for conservation ?  Well, driven by frustration the Executive have now used another on-line campaign tool in an attempt to draw to the public’s attention some rather ‘quiet’ activity being undertaken by Natural England.

In 2011, senior directors within Natural England proposed Open Access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act across all their freehold National Nature Reserves.  Remember that these sites are ours, i.e. public.  Remember too the local campaigns ‘fought’ to secure the sites for posterity, particularly those here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors, were driven by grassroots activists, see the recent page created to provide a campaign chronology.   So, National NATURE Reserves, surely the clue is in the name?

P1020499

The sign above accurately reflects, in the opinion of the author of this post, what ought to be the ethos of NNR raison d’etre.

 

The Forum’s Executive have sought answers to many points but those below have yet to receive responses in sufficient detail.

  • Has Natural England secured sufficient funds in order to finance in perpetuity the monitoring, and management of of Natura 2000 sites to ensure that any conditions and restrictions necessary to protect the special interest as a result of Dedication for Open Access under the CROW Act can be maintained in perpetuity?
  • Can Natural England confirm that where it cannot be determined at the outset, that a Project to Dedicate Open Access on a National Nature Reserve which is a  Natura 2000 site, will not have the potential to have a likely significant effect on the special interests for which the site is designated, then a full Appropriate Assessment as required by the EU Habitats Directive/Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended) and involving the public where appropriate will be conducted to inform the acceptability of conditions or other restrictions necessary to ensure there is no harm to the special interest of the Natura 2000 sites before any dedication takes place?
  • Can Natural England confirm that as Dedication of Open Access under the CROW Act cannot be carried out conditionally that full funding and resources are in place and legally binding to ensure that the monitoring, management and controls necessary to protect the special interest of National Nature Reserves which are Natura 2000 sites in perpetuity, must be guaranteed in perpetuity at the moment of dedication, otherwise the Dedication cannot proceed?

Then there is the matter of open and transparent public consultation, that is to say demonstrable implementation of a democratic process.  Senior Directors offered to arrange a closed meeting in June but since we proposed including the public there has been prevarication and laterly a deafening silence.

There also appears to be an avoidance to ensure compliance with the Habitats Directive.  We are not yet convinced that the Chinese Walls that NE insist will ensure there will be no Conflict of Interest between regulatory compliance and access staff interests are of the appropriate material.  The Board paper NEB PU28 03, para 3.7 suggests that whole project costs will be in the region of £40,000 but correspondence received has already indicated an annual figure of around £73,584 not inclusive of the £40,000 which is available for ‘establishment’ of Open Access is necessary.

Many NNRs are in unfavourable condition status and some in unfavourable declining, including parts of Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI, so why therefore when access already exists on these sites would anyone divert money from ensuring that we comply with achieving favourable conservation status to encouraging inappropriate access across dangerously deep peat bogs awaiting those unfamiliar with the complex nature of the sites?

Why place at risk the SPA interest of the site?  See the post “Skylarks under foot as gates opened?”  Factor in that there has already been one dog attack on a member of the public on Hatfield Moors.  This was reported to the police because previous approaches to Natural England were dismissed as being trivial.

So, please consider signing the Forum’s petition on the 38 degrees Campaigns By You website.  Please help us to spread the word, help us to ensure that Thorne and Hatfield Moors are safeguarded for future generations.

Perhaps finally (for this post), to add that we are not oppossed to appropriate access on NNRs, de facto open access already exists here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI.  We simply seek proper process, open and transparent consultation based on science and underpinned by the acceptance that these sites are the gems in the nations natural crown jewels.  We simply ask STOP & RETHINK.

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