Consistency in application of protection to SSSIs?

Well done Natural England, congratulations on standing up for nature and for applying the regulations …. we refer to NE’s press release on their website earlier today about

Off-roaders fined for damaging one of the Peak District’s finest conservation sites

Staff are to be congratulated with their investigation and enforcement of regulations.  Perhaps it was a pretty obvious matter to investigate and gather evidence for and that there would have been public support for the action taken, never the less they saw it through and didn’t abandon the case like they did with other privately owned upland moorland incidents.

They deserve praise for doing their job, so we duly recognise that …. to re-iterate, well done NE staff in the Peak District.

So, why when Natural England staff discovered damage to Thorne Moors SSSI in July 2012 did they too not act?  Why did it take until November 2012 for their staff to replace the earth bank deliberately removed by the lawful tenant of a neighbouring landowner (and Internal Drainage Board member) to discharge agricultural run off high in nitrates etc.?  Despite discussions and correspondence with the statutory agencies and support from MPs and Buglife was nothing further  done?  Why did the Rural Payments Agency not investigate?  Why did they not try to recover public funds?  For more detail see Mark Avery’s guest blog about the incident here.  Desspite a duty to monitor condition status of SSSIs, no monitoring has been commissioned consequential of the damage to that part of Thorne Moors SSSI.

To quote Janet Ward, Natural England’s Regulatory Director who said of the Peak District case “The message is clear – if you damage a SSSI knowingly or unknowingly, you are breaking the law.”

What is the difference then between these two incidents given the facts of the matter(s) which centred on deliberate damage?

 

P1020194

The image above shows the drainage channel dug out of the embankment which protected the  SSSI, thousands of gallons of agricultural run off entered the SSSI as no action was taken by the statutory agencies to prevent damage to the interest features and the rare aquatic invertebrates.

 

To us such actions raise a number of issues, amongst them:

  • The existence of public funded agencies ‘fit for purpose’ with systems which demonstrate compliance with the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Habitats Regulations.
  • The ability of Defra agencies to act in a timely manner, to investigate incidents and to be able to ensure monitoring establishes impact and to recover public funds where damage and impact is proven.
  • The accountability of agri-industrialist landowners who sit on publicly funded IDBs.
  • A system which ensures that public money is not paid to landowners who damage SSSIs/Natura 2000 sites.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

 

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