Environmental Information Regulations request to Natural England 28 Sept 2012

Here is Natural England’s reply -1710 to the Environmental Information Regulations request that I made on 28 Sept 2012, as follows:

1. What form and process does Natural England’s “appropriate assessment” take when drawing up Consents and Management Agreements for land management on Natura 2000 sites (aka Europe 2000 sites)?

2. Is this the same as carrying out a Habitat Regulations Assessment?

3. How many Natural England Consents for Natura 2000 sites permit blanket bog burning and draining?

4. Please can I have a copy of Natural England’s appropriate assessments for each of these Consents?

5. Are farmers/landowners whose land is in a Natura 2000 site legally required to produce a Habitat Regulations Assessment for Natural England, before Natural England can issue a Consent?

6. Please can I have a copy of the Habitat Regulations Assessment for Walshaw Moor Estate’s land management proposals, prepared by Mike Webb of SLR consultancy for the 2012 Public Inquiry that heard WME’s appeal against Natural England’s modification of the WME Consent under the Wildlife Act 1981?

7. Please can I have a copy of Natural England’s Statement of Case in relation to its 2010 Modification of Consent for WME? and its Statement of Case in relation to its 2011 Modification of Consent for WME?

8. Please can I have a copy of all documents and expert witness testimony presented by or on behalf of Natural England, to the Walshaw Moor Estate/Natural England Public Inquiry?

9. Why did Natural England drop its prosecution of Walshaw Moor Estate for carrying out damaging activities on a Site of Special Scientific Interest without consent, which is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981?

What was the effect on the prosecution proceedings of Andrew Wood’s emails to Martin Gillibrand in December 2011, where he explained that Natural England saw Walshaw Moor Estate as an isolated case, and that Natural England did not intend to modify other consents or Higher Level Stewardship agreements along the lines of the 9th December modification of WME’s consent – which would have had the effect of banning burning on other Natura 2000 sites?

In an email reply, Martin Gillibrand notes that what Andrew Wood is saying is not what Natural England’s lawyers are saying. Is Martin Gillibrand’s statement accurate? If so, why did Andrew Wood contact Martin Gillibrand to put a personal view which differed from Natural England’s legal position?

Did Natural England’s prosecution collapse because Andrew Wood’s emails to Martin Gillibrand allowed WME’s lawyers to claim that Natural England was acting in a discriminatory manner against WME?

The reason I ask question 9 is that Martin Gillibrand’s 9th Feb 2012 Witness statement for WME’s application to the High Court of Justice 2011 for a Judicial Review (Claim No CO/12569/2011) says that he doesn’t understand why Natural England have “singled out” WME for

“special treatment in this matter. To my knowledge it is the only estate that has been the subject of a no burn/no grazing/ no vehicle use on blanket bog”.

His witness statement draws on the December 2011 email exchange between him and Andrew Wood. It continues (para 16)

“When I pressed Andrew Wood of Natural England about this, he replied by email that to the effect that there was no intention to implement this new regime on any other grouse moor than the claimant. If this is the case it seems hugely discriminatory.”

10. Please will you explain the response of Janette Ward, Director of Regulation, Natural England to a question from Paul Uppal MP in the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee in May 2012?

Specifically, please will you explain why Janette Ward’s response to Paul Uddal MP’s question is so at odds with Natural England’s Consent with Walshaw Moor Estate, the terms of the WME Environmental Stewardship Agreement and common sense – how can gripping or moorland drainage restore water levels?

Please will you also provide an answer to the question of whether Natural England did check whether Walshaw Moor Estate had dug any unauthorised drainage channels in the moors before the new agreement was signed?

This is the question that Paul Uddal MP asked about Natural England’s new management agreement with Walshaw Moor Estate:

“the management agreement you have is ambiguous on the idea of the whole impact environmentally, on the entire estate, whereas it is specific on some bits of the estate in terms of where there should be grass or heather burning…One of the issues was also around drainage channels. Does the agreement cover that, and did you guys check in terms of whether any unauthorised drainage channels were dug out on the moors? Does the agreement cover it and then was there any checking on that?”

Janette Ward replied,

“The agreement is taking us into the future, and that is what the agreement is about. As part of the agreement there is a management scheme which is designed to restore drainage on the moor through a procedure that is called moor gripping. What it will do is restore water levels on certain parts on the moor so restoring their wildlife interest.”

Ms Ward’s answer is at odds with the Walshaw Moor Environmental Stewardship Agreement. The ESA includes capital funding of almost £400K to be spent between 2012-2015 on  “major preparatory work for heathland recreation”, which is mainly “aimed at blocking grips across extensive areas of the moorland.”

Janette Ward’s answer is also at odds with the the Notice and Consent agreed between Natural England and Walshaw Moor Estate in March 2012. The Notice and Consent specifies that maintenance of existing infrastructure is permitted – except no maintenance of moorland drainage is permitted, apart from next to surfaced roads/tracks, walls and within a 50 metre radius around grouse butts.

I’ll post the answers shortly – Natural England has now replied.

Updated 24 Nov 2012 to say that Natural England’s replied

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