Posts Tagged ‘Open Spaces Society’

Are our landscapes of any value and why were NNRs not included?

February 28, 2015

The Landscapes for everyone initiative was launched on 19 January 2015 in Parliament.  Some 27 organisational signatories called for the need to protect precious landscapes.

The coalition members listed below

Association of Garden Trusts; Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland; British Mountaineering Council; The Broads Society; Campaign for National Parks; Campaign to Protect Rural England; Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales; The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare; The Conservation Volunteers; Dartmoor Preservation Association; English Outdoor Council; Friends of the Earth; Friends of the Lake District; Friends of the Peak District; Groundwork UK; John Muir Trust; Landscape Institute; National Trust; Outdoor Industries Association; Open Spaces Society; Ramblers; Scottish Campaign for National Parks; Snowdonia Society; South Downs Society; Wilderness Foundation; The Wildland Research Institute; Yorkshire Dales Society.

Seek, amongst other things to

Strengthen planning protections for landscape – the planning system is one of the best tools we have to protect landscapes. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for England, Planning Policy Wales, Scottish Planning Policy and other planning guidanceshould be strengthened to protect our best and irreplaceable including their setting, from major and intrusive development;
Integrate the UK’s commitment to The European Landscape Convention into Government policies, including the NPPF and equivalents in Scotland and Wales;
Endorse and promote the National Character Area profiles as a tool for local authorities and policy makers to take a holistic approach to planning and landscape management in each area.
Encourage the restoration of degraded or impoverished landscapes in and around our towns and cities as well as the wider countryside, for the benefit of people, nature and the economy
Ensure our National Parks, AONBs, NSAs, Historic Landscapes, historic public parks and green spaces have sufficient resources to guarantee their long term protection and enhancement.

These aspirations are excellent, but as with much of this kind of ‘call to action’ unless it has substance through legislation and compliance is monitored and enforced then we will continue to see the degradation of the quintessential English landscape as it becomes consigned to art galleries and the history books?

That is not to say that the ‘Landscape coalition’ is not right and it is to be congratulated on raising the issue but to our minds there are many missing signatories …. the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts to name a couple of million voices who we would like to think care about the landscape?  A glaring omission, to our minds is the mention of the publically owned National Nature Reserves managed on the publics behalf, in the main by Natural England.  Why has the Minister for the Environment not included this portfolio of public land in the catalogue of places which are deemed to be of landscape importance?

Many readers will have stood on the viewing platform on Thorne Moors and appreciated the panorama, sadly if they have known the area over recent decades they will have noticed the ring of steel increasing as the landscape is becoming more industrialised?

Thorne Moors panorama

The Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) and Saltfleetby Theddlethorpe too are other local gems, why are they not deemed to be important in landscape terms?  One might wonder why Natural England are not keen to see public places protected?  The public forests are still under threat and it was not so long since that the ConDem coalition with it’s ‘greenest ever’ promise was seeking to divest the public portfolio of NNRs.  How long before either of these issues are revisited?

S T Panorama4a

Are the above images of wild open spaces, evocative landscapes not worthy of protection?  Are they not worthy of inclusion in the recent initiative ‘Landscapes for everyone’?  Wake up Natural England before we lose ‘moor’ ….

See also National Character Area profiles: data for local decision making.  The GOV.UK page informs the reader that Natural England is improving access to environmental evidence and information through NCA profiles.  NCA Profile: 39 The Humberhead Levels (NE339) offers some 47 pages, much of which is narrative but supplemented with some interesting statistics (very few reference sources).  That recording interest of Saltfleetby Theddlethorpe is NCA Profile: 42 Lincolnshire Coast and Marshes (NE521) and the LDV is NCA Profile: 28 Vale of York (NE367) 

 

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Causes for celebration?

March 16, 2014

It’s always nice to receive good news or positive outcomes and to be able to congratulate people on achieving best conservation outcomes:

The Badger saga: there was a Backbench Business Committee debate on Thursday 13 March in the ‘House’, see here to watch the debate or to download the transcript.  It is interesting to observe the proceedings and ‘performaces’,  one might be minded to agree that the Independant Expert Panel (IEP) report should have been made available ahead of the debate (as oppossed to being leaked on the day) in order that all MPs could read and understand all the significant findings.  219 to one MPs voted to halt the cull, many justified abstention by indicating that the final IEP Report was required ahead of a debate.  In the interim of the awaited IEP Report, perhaps they should read a few statistics provided by ‘Team Badger’?   The outcome of the debate is not binding upon the Government and thus far the ConDems have carried on in just that manner,  ConDem’ing wildlife and the environment to an uncertain future by clearing away red tape they see as inhibiting development.  What is perhaps equally worrying is a Government who appears deaf to the masses?  Fifty Shades of Grayling a guest blog by Carol Day was another damming view on the Government’s ‘green credentials’ and featured on the well read Standing up for Nature site operated by Mark Avery.   Another recent critique he featured was subsequent to a magazine interview with Dave Webster, CEO of Natural England, entitled What would you have liked to have asked?  it too receives a number of interesting comments. 

It is unfortunate that the Defra website  does not contain up to date information which raises the issue of open and transparent reporting by a Government Department perhaps?  The Defra website then directs you to GOV.UK website for more information, but that only brings you to the end of last year in terms of the IEP.  GOV.UK also provides details of the membership of the IEP.  It is understood and reported in the media that the Minister, Owen Paterson has at long last received the IEP Report, so hopefully it will not be too long before its findings will be made public.  The BBC (television station not Parliamentary Committee) reports that Badger culls were ‘ineffective and failed humaneness test’.

Badger & mayweed

Badger by Tatterdemalion.   Image courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons license.

A number of email updates were received reporting upon the success of the collaborative coalition to save The Sanctuary a Derby CC Local Nature Reserve.  This was an excellent outcome not only for the wildlife of the site but also that it demonstrated what can be achieved by a collective collaboration of community conservationists.  It is understood that Derby CC press release concludes with this quite stinging comment ‘Derbyshire Wildlife Trust continues to have a service level agreement with the Council to provide expert advice on matters related to the natural environment.  Their compliance with this agreement will now be formally reviewed, and if found to be in breach, the appropriate legal action will be taken’.  It raises the issue of ‘paymasters’ requiring unchallenged compliance and co-operation otherwise potential loss of revenue to anyone with the audacity to challenge?  That was perhaps one of the benefits of forming a collaborative coalition, and was the rationale behind the Forum’s governance model.  There are an array of interesting comments posted, clearly and understandably local conservationists are not planning on complacency and will remain vigilent, long may the network deliver and where statute fails may they be held to account?

It was also pleasing to note that the Open Spaces Society have submitted a objection to the land swop at Beverley.  A timely reminder perhaps that one of the guest speakers at the Forum’s forthcoming Annual Meeting is Emeritus Professor Barbara English who will give a presentation on Beverley Pastures, the natural history and campaigning perspective will be provided by Kieran Sheehan. 

The IUCN have recently produced a glossy PR brochure on UK Peatland Restoration.   A number of geographically diverse case studies are offered but for the analysts of associated costs then there is disappointment and likewise perhaps the superficial reporting but nevertheless it delivers something we (conservation) often fail to celebrate, so well done!  Aimed for the layman rather than the scientist, one might see the benefit of having sufficient printed / CD to provide all 650 MPs in Westminster with a copy?

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

March 3, 2014

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


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Mark Avery

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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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