Upper Calderdale Wildlife Group says the situation with Natural England is hopeless following Defra’s recent rejection of Natural England’s recommendation to set legally binding, strong targets for improving conditions at Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The quango’s ability to protect Walshaw Moor, above Hebden Bridge, was already limited.
With its budget slashed over the past decade and a half by central government, Natural England hasn’t had the staff to monitor the Walshaw Moor Estate Site of Special Scientific Interest – even though, as a Natura 2000 site, the grouse shooting moor is supposed to have the highest level of conservation protection.
Walshaw Moor is one of the rare areas of upland blanket bog in the UK, and as such, should be protected as a vital carbon sink on a par with tropical rainforest. But its management for intensive driven grouse shooting is at odds with protecting this vital habitat, and the wildlife it should support.
Over the weekend, Calder Valley again suffered horrendous flooding – the third in eight years.
When Ban the Burn heard that Theresa Villiers, the Defra Sec of State, would be doing a walkabout in central Mytholmroyd on Wednesday between 9am and 10am, we called Craig Whittaker’s constituency office to say we would like to talk to her.
We wanted to ask when the government is bringing in promised legislation to ban peatland burning and to make sure it has no loopholes or exemptions that would allow burning to continue.
They agreed it would be appropriate for us to talk to her.
In January, Plain Speaker reported that Calder Valley people had asked Craig Whittaker MP to access and make public a full unredacted copy of the Defra report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, so that he could make an informed vote in the House of Commons on proposed new fracking legislation in the Infrastructure Bill.
Of course this didn’t happen.
But now the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that:
“DEFRA has incorrectly withheld the information [and must] disclose an unredacted copy of the report”
in the next 35 days, in order to follow Environmental Information Regulations. If Defra fails to do this, it may be “dealt with as a contempt of court”.
In what looks like bad news for agency workers on farms, Defra is looking at ways to reduce the powers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which exists to prevent the worst abuses of casual farm workers and construction workers.
This is part of the ConDems’ recently-announced plans to weaken a variety of environmental and other protective laws. Continue reading →