Posts Tagged ‘Hatfield Moors SSSI’

Hen Harriers & campaigning?

February 15, 2014

My birding year has not really had many highlights in terms of sightings of note, but today’s garden tick was a very welcome one.  A stunning male Hen Harrier was observed quartering the northern fields on the periphery of Hatfield Moors SSSI, and all easily witnessed from my garden!  What ‘moor’ could you ask on a cold February day?  There is just something magical in their flight, in the majesty of their graceful movement.  BUT …. I wondered will the superb male I was priviledged to see in winter manage to survive and sucessfully breed in the coming season?   The Hen Harrier failed to breed sucessfully in England last year.  The BBC announced that the Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction, Mark Avery’s blog frequently posts updates on the topic of Hen Harrier persecution, the most recent data available from JNCC is unfortunately out of date, but nevertheless catalogues a worrying trend.  Mark Avery’s blog is also a good source of background information about the now ‘infamous’  Walshaw Moor case which was initially taken up by Natural England.  Fast forward, it is now with the RSPB who took up the case after NE decided to drop the case.

Can I encourage readers of the blog who have not already done so to consider signing John Armitage’s epetition Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers at the time of writing it has reached 9,302 and needs to achieve 10,000 signatures for the issue to be debated in Parliament.  OK we know what happens to topics that those in power do not like, but if nothing else let’s add it to the catalogue of Government failures to protect our environment.

Of community campaigning, congratulations to the consortium of collaborators who mounted a campaign to persuade Derby Council to safeguard one of their Local Nature Reserves ‘The Sanctuary’.  Unfortunately the Councillors approved the application, however the campaigners believe that they have grounds to challenge the decision and are considering a Judicial Review.  For more background see Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s post here.  It is worth viewing the drone’s eye view of the site, I wonder what brownfield invertebrates lurk amidst the wonderfully neglected grassland and scrub?  As an LNR it even qualifies to feature on Natural England’s website, see here.  Unsurprisingly, given the dangerous precedent in terms of planning law Mark Avery has taken an interest and I suspect that in no small part that assisted in the number of objections submitted to Derby Council.  So, in addition to a potential legal challenge the consortium have also created an online petition which is aimed at the Lottery, see hereSimon Barne’s writes in today’s Times.

A plea also to anyone able to post on facebook or twitter, that the Forum’s petition about Open Access on NNRs could do with a push here.

We need to take back common ground and ensure those in power listen to the community, common sense should prevail but sadly that is swamped by developers greed and a planning system which appears no longer fit for purpose.  If you need a half reasonable justification for that accusation then look no further at a Government which encourages developers to build 20% of new houses in flood plains without ensuring that they are appropriately designed and built IF they are actually really needed in such low lying areas.

In the meanwhile I shall go and dream of another ‘skydancer’ on my horizon tomorrow …. magic moments like that remind me why we must keep on campaigning.

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National NATURE Reserves set to become the new ‘country parks’?

November 16, 2013

Recently we have had a few more signatures on our 38 degree petition STOP & RETHINK National Nature Reserves as Open Access areas.

Why I wonder?  I’d hope that it’s consequential of common sense prevailing as well as a mixture of astonishment and disbelief or perhaps even anger and naive expectation that a Government agency would act in an open and transparent manner by demonstrating best practice as well as legislative compliance.  Sadly, neither expectation has been in evidence, in fact quite the reverse.

Have any of you out there heard about Nature Conservation Assessments?  Setting aside the lack of science or any evidence, nor involvement with a wider expertise beyond internal staff, they appear to be a new approach to assessing ‘Likely Significant Effect’ on the interest features of a Natura 2000 site.  At the risk of being accused of scepticism they seem instead to be a way to side step Habitats Directive legislative compliance (Article 6(3)).  We are told that these documents exist for all the 83 NNRs proposed for Dedication as Open Access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. 

See JNCC website on the Habitats Directive.  The guidance is extensive on plans and projects which might impact on Natura 2000 sites.  See particularly Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites.  Methodological guidance on the provisions of Article 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.  Perhaps from an NE perspective, it is easier to re-write the rules and who could blame them?

So, what might that mean for the sensitive habitats and species out there?  What might it mean for the public who visit for the quite enjoyment of the tranquil landscape or to experience the magic of wilderness and wildlife?

Car Park 115aDSC_0003

Car park requirement, litter bins (mmh, they are either full to overflowing or not used at all in my experience), lots of colourful expensive ‘interpretation’ boards (target practice for air gun or rifle enthusiasts) and not forgetting toilets ….  I do so wish they’d sort the variation for dogs as it’s been unpleasant to witness people in wheelchairs suffering the aftermath and deposits of thoughtless pets, or rather the failure of their owners to act responsibly.

The funding for all these?  We are informed that it will come from ‘core’, so despite the fact that budgets are being cut there is the ‘suggestion’ that additional expenditure can be accommodated?  Not possible, so then what is dropped or neglected?  Given that Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI for example, have yet to achieve ‘favourable condition status’ (FCS) so if funds are diverted from nature conservation management then how will that situation be addressed?  Thereafter if they fail to achieve FCS are they de-notified and disposed of?

Alarmist, not at all …. how many of you remember the 1997 endeavour by English Nature to denotify large areas of Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI when the peat extractors Fison’s funded the hydrological reports upon which the EN case was based?  Interestingly there is no corporate sponsor of the ‘science’ this time, perhaps that’s why there is none?  Perhaps the local authorities who might benefit as they impose more restrictions on dogs in public places are keen to see NNRs become ‘alternative country parks’?

There is the issue of health and safety, Thorne Moors SSSI particularly have very deep and dangerous drains and canals.  Parts of Crowle Moors SSSI too are equally as inviting but just as dangerous.  Worse though are the uncontrolled dogs.  Already there have been two attacks on Hatfield Moors and one was sufficiently serious to be reported to the police.

Dog walker

Please note that the walker and the dog pictured above, are not as far as we are aware the guilty parties of the attack mentioned above.

A Senior Director has tried to suggest that there will be little difference in reality, so why on earth spend funds on the exercise?

As the sites are rewetted through the implementation of the Water Level Management Plan required to assist achieving FSC, the Special Protection Area (SPA) interest feature the enigmatic and crepuscular nightjar will be squeezed to the drier areas.

Nightjar (PP)

What of the woodlark, a Schedule 1 breeding bird?  They too have already been disturbed and displaced by NE access projects in previous seasons.  But, as ‘judge and jury’ NE refused to ‘hear’ the complaint.  These are also the areas which are favoured for picnics and needed for car parks and cafes, toilets etc.

The Forum do not oppose open access in principle, but this plan / project promoted by Natural England has been a communication failure from start to the present time.  The Senior Director was insistent that the Forum have been consulted, rather the reality was that we had been notified and in my South Yorkshire dictionary there is a substantive difference in meaning between the two words!  There has been no ‘science’ to support the proposal this time, but if you examine the proportion of access vs science based staff in NE that is perhaps not surprising and there is negligible commissioned science by the Government agency here in the Humberhead Levels.

So, thank you to those of you who have signed the 38 degree petition, if you are new to the Forum’s blog and haven’t signed the petition then please consider doing so.  Better still, write to your MP, or the Minister (Owen Paterson) or the Chairman of the Board of NE about the issue.  If you would like to know more then please contact us via execsec@thmcf.org


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

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