The law, implementation and poor deals for wildlife and the environment?

A recent post raised concerns about a Planning System fit for purpose in terms of public benefit.  Thanks to those of you who contacted us about the issue and similarly with regard to other recent posts.

We offer another recent case which illustrates how one minute the politicians in Westminster try to persuade the public and local communities that they can have a say in local plans and the like.  Then the flip side to that is a situation when developers seek to capitalise on assets the High Courts rule in favour of private profit.  Clayton Fields at Edgerton near Huddersfield achieved village green status in 1996.  The Leader of Kirklees Council Mehboob Khan said “It is a big blow for the local community.  Current legislation is not strong enough to protect local amenity spaces.”  Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society said the decision “gave the green light to developers to grab village greens”.  See the Yorkshire Post and Planning Resource reports on the case.

Call us sceptical but it may well be a case that village greens will only succeed and be safe where local groups secure ownership, rather than historic sites which may well have fallen into the hands of absentee landowners and speculators or developers?  At a local level it is clear that communities need to be vigilant to local authority land disposals.  As austerity continues to cause cuts in local authority spending, there will be difficult decisions being made about public assets.

More and more are being reported which see loss of local amenity provision.  Developers set their sights on areas and lobby behind the scenes to secure agreements, one such case is the proposed land swop involving the Beverley Commons.  The planning authority in this case is East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

Another instance of questionable practice offered is Natural England’s behaviour over the Public Inquiry into the Tween Bridge wind farm.  Natural England objected to the development but they failed to provide a barrister to support their local officer.  Perhaps that barrister was otherwise occupied negotiating with the wind farm developers over access arrangements across public land in their care which ultimately netted the organisations head office some £50,000 a year for 35 years?  That’s £1.75 million!  None of which we understand is earmarked for any work or scientific monitoring at Thorne and Hatfield Moors subsequent to the wind farm securing access to enable it to be built.  Despite a thorough on line search for this document relating to a public body we are unable to provide a link.  The local community pot associated with the Tween Bridge development does not get anywhere near that sum and yet it is local people who suffer from the loss of quality of environment.  Conversely others may delight in aesthetically pleasing structures industrialising farmland and the countryside?

Of ‘damage’ which statutory agencies and authorities have for various reasons turned a blind eye to or declined to act we offer a couple of case both of which relate to activity around the periphery of Thorne Moors SSSI, the first is actually a SSSI in its own right.  In July 2012 Natural England staff became aware that a neighbouring landowners lawful tenant had dug through a protective embankment to discharge agricultural run off into a SSSI drain.  It was not until November and after the Forum Executive started to investigate that the breach was repaired.  The incident was also reported to the Rural Payments Agency because such action was surely contra to cross compliance and there was the potential to recover public funds paid to landowners failing to comply with the terms of their agreements.  BUT …. the RPA did not investigate, instead they informed us that it was not usual for the public to report such matters.  The second involves an Internal Drainage Board whose land was rigorously managed to the point of disturbing badger setts.   Again Natural England were not rigourous in pursuing the matter, instead they were content to accept the age old response of ‘we won’t do it again’ line.  I suppose if one factors in the popularity of poor brock with statute at the moment then it’s hardly surprising?  However,  we’d been led to understand that the law is there to be complied with?

The Yorkshire Post recently reported that The Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham were awarded some £396k of Lottery funds to deliver a five year project called ‘Wild at Heart’ Project manager Jan Flamank, a professional artist said “By developing regular interest and hobby activities at outdoor sites and in more accessible indoor spaces, we’re really hoping to create social groups which will continue to meet and work together long after the project is over.”   Wouldn’t it be great if that same project could keep an eye on community assets (albeit of a restricted postcode area) and become community champions in safeguarding green spaces as well as training the next generation of naturalsists to record the declining diversity of wildlife?  IF it does become sustainable then is the model one to be rolled out in other urban areas?  Do variations already exist in other areas?

Looking back over recent blogs it seems there are more which could be described as ‘campaigning’ posts rather than science or natural history observations.  So, I will leave you with the image below, which whilst not a perfect photograph, it is nevertheless a special memory from earlier today and I didn’t even have to leave Yorkshire!

140303 Yorkshire RSq hrk 740 - Copy

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,


%d bloggers like this: