I have sent Natural England an Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) request, (RFI 1870) to find out about Natural England’s Appropriate Assessments, Consents and Environmental Stewardship Agreements that cover blanket bog burning on Natura 2000 sites across England.
(To see what these terms mean, please skip to the end of this post.)
This follows Ban the Burn’s complaint to the European Commission about Natural England’s “probably unlawful” Consent to Walshaw Moor Estate’s blanket bog burning on the European-protected South Pennine Moors site.
My EIR request of 28th September 2012 (RFI 1710) included a request for copies of the Appropriate Assessments for Consents that permit blanket bog burning on Natura 2000 sites. Natural England sent me 3 Appropriate Assessments – for Walshaw Moor Estate, North Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation (SAC)/Special Protection Area (SPA) and North York Moors SAC/SPA.
(SACs and SPAs are European Designated protected sites, also known as Natura 200 sites.)
1) How many of the 106 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) that, in the words of Natural England’s reply, have “some type of consent to burn on blanket bog habitat”, are also European Designated/Natura 2000 sites?
2) Did Natural England carry out Appropriate Assessments for these Natura 2000 sites before signing Consents to burn on blanket bog?
3) If so, how many? And please will you send me copies of these Appropriate Assessments?
4) Of the 491 Environmental Stewardship Agreements (ESAs) which include a prescription that relates to burning blanket bog:
a) how many are on Natura 2000 sites
b) how many of these are based on an Appropriate Assessment?
6) Please will you send me copies of the Appropriate Assessments that Natural England carried out for these ESAs? (If not already covered by 3) above.)
7) How many of these ESAs include Higher Level Stewardship Agreements?
8) How many Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Agreements that have some kind prescription regarding blanket bog burning on Natura 2000 sites did Natural England sign in 2012?
9) How many of these were based on an Appropriate Assessment?
10) Please may I have a copy of all such Appropriate Assessments for 2012 HLS Agreements? (if not already included in 6) above)
What these terms mean
Natural England has to carry out an environmental impact assessment, called an Appropriate Assessment, before it can sign a Consent or Environmental Stewardship Agreement that allows land owners and managers to carry out operations that are not necessary for conservation on a Natura 2000 site.
These operations include blanket bog burning for grouse shooting purposes.
Environmental Stewardship Agreements specify environmental conservation measures that a landowner agrees to carry out in return for payments from the government.
Natura 2000 sites are protected by the European Habitats Directive (Special Areas of Conservation) and/or by the European Birds Directive (Special Protection Areas).