Lots of questions about proposed peatland burning legislation


Ban the Burn is underwhelmed by Defra’s 29th January press release about proposed legislation to prevent the burning of heather and other vegetation on protected blanket bog habitats.

The UK government has been forced to legislate after it was clobbered by the EU Commission’s legal case – initiated by the RSPB and Ban the Burn back in 2012/13 – for not enforcing EU wildlife and habitats protection laws on Walshaw Moor Estate and other EU-protected uplands.

The UK government’s first response was to introduce a voluntary ban, to be signed by grouse moor owners and managers of EU-protected sites. Grouse moor owners and managers declined (including Richard Bannister, owner of Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd. HIs refusal to sign the voluntary ban caused Natural England to replace the existing land management agreement with the 2017-2042 Catchment Restoration Plan.)

So far information is sketchy. Apparently the detail of the proposed legislation in England will be published in April, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UK).

In the meantime, here are our immediate questions and comments.

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Ban the Burn, Treesponsibility and others call on Gove to ban burning of upland peatlands in England


Ban the Burn and Treesponsibility are among a group of charities, academics and local campaigners with a track record of working on peatland conservation, which has today written to Michael Gove urging him to implement a complete ban on the practice of burning on upland peatland habitats.

A ban is vital in order to protect carbon stores, wildlife, habitats and communities.

We have seen plenty of evidence of continued burning on protected peatland this year, despite the government’s introduction of a voluntary ban on burning.

The lack of compliance with the voluntary ban on burning is likely to worsen, thanks to Natural England’s recent ‘restoration burning’ position statement. Continue reading

Big Brexit question mark over EU legal action against UK government for failing to protect Walshaw Moor

Following the EU Referendum vote, Linda McAvan MEP has said it’s unclear what effect the vote for the UK to leave the EU is going to have on the EU Commission’s pursuit of the Ban the Burn complaint about the legality of a £2.5 million Environmental Stewardship Agreement (ESA) that Natural England has awarded the grouse-shooting Walshaw Moor Estate.

Linda said that she can’t give a definitive  answer to this question, since all is up in the air, but she guesses that given that EU legal cases are premised on continued EU membership,  she can’t see why the Commission would invest time in pursuing the prosecution if the UK is going to be out of the EU.  

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Ban the Burn blanket bog walk 23rd September

All are invited to join a Ban the Burn walk around the Walshaw Dean area of Walshaw Moor Estate on Sunday 23rd September. The walk will be an opportunity for people who want to see the site and haven’t been before.

Here’s Natural England’s map of this unit of the Site of Special Scientific Interest:

The map shows that Heather Hill and units 48 and 51 to each side of it are in unfavourable condition and not recovering (no change)

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Read Heather Trust Director’s blog about Ban the Burn!


Simon Thorp, the Director of the Heather Trust, has blogged about Ban the Burn, under the title National Campaign against moorland bog-burning.  The thing I like about his blog is that he responds to comments and there’s a bit of a dialogue in the comments on the post. He says in a reply in the comments section that his work for The Heather Trust includes working with the IUCN UK Peatland Programme and he runs the Peatland Working Group in Scotland, and that

I am all for healthy peatland and active bogs, but I think we need to be careful about how we achieve this.”

BanTheBurn! campaign launch – info & live blog

Ban the Burn! campaign lifts off.

Ban The Burn campaigners launched a national campaign on Sunday evening, August 12th, in Hebden Bridge. The Ban the Burn! campaign aims are:

  • a ban on burning and draining blanket bog
  • an end to loopholes in the Heather & Grass Burning Code and other regulations
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Join a family-friendly walk to Walshaw Moor & help lessen valley flood risks

On August 12th (the “Glorious Twelfth”, that marks the official start of the grouse-shooting season) there will be a “BAN THE BURN” Walk to Walshaw Estate, leaving from Hebden Bridge at 9.30 am.

Plans for the walk include offer of accommodation and a meal at the Trades Club

This will be a very mellow, family friendly event. The walk will stick to public footpaths, and there will be a shorter route accessible by public transport.

Walkers can stay at Blake Dean hostel for Saturday and Sunday nights, and space is also available in the Hebden Hostel. It should be a really fun weekend.

The walk will be followed by a Campaign Launch and meal in the Trades Club from 5pm.  PLEASE, PLEASE COME IF YOU CAN!  BRING YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS! LET PEOPLE KNOW!

The walk’s demand: a total ban on blanket bog burning

Walshaw Moor is owned by a local businessman, Richard Bannister, who bought it in 2002 and acquired the adjoining 4,000-acre Lancashire Moor in 2005. The Daily Telegraph has reported that

“Under his stewardship the estate has gone from producing 100 brace of grouse a season to 3,000… …Around 70 per cent of his estate is covered by blanket bog and keepers operate system of ‘cool burning’, following the flames and spraying water to prevent damaging peat and moss”

Dying sphagnum moss on Walshaw Moor burnt blanket bog

The walk is campaigning for a total ban on burning on blanket bogs,  for these reasons:

  • To minimize flood risks to Hebden Bridge, the tops need to be managed to promote healthy blanket bog – not burnt to keep heather at the right height for breeding and rearing red grouse.
  • The government isn’t protecting the country’s peatland carbon sinks. Walshaw is not an isolated case – the latest data on the condition of Blanket Bog within Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England found that only 11% by area are in favourable condition, although 83% is in recovering condition mainly on the basis of management agreements and other measures in place. Primary reasons cited for unfavourable (no change or declining) condition are overgrazing, inappropriate “moor burning” and drainage.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK Committee’s Peatland Programme reports estimates that 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are being lost each year from the UK’s damaged peatlands.  This has serious implications for worsening climate change. A recent Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands reports that

“A loss of only 5% of UK peat carbon would equate to the total annual UK human green house gas emissions.”