RSPB launches complaint against Natural England15/10/2012 10:15:46
Flood preventionRSPB seeks European investigation after failure to protect UK wildlife site
Campaigners in Hebden Bridge are adding their voice to the RSPB complaint to the European Commission relating to Natural England's failure to protect blanket bog at the Walshaw Moor Estate, in the upland catchment above Hebden Water.
Dongria Kondh from the locally based BAN THE BURN campaign group explains:- "Inappropriate moorland management does not just affect birds; people suffer too. Hebden Bridge was very badly hit by flooding in June and July this year and in order to minimize the town's flood risk we need the upland catchment above the town to be managed so that large areas of degraded blanket bog are restored to a healthy state. We need a good cover of sphagnum moss to act as a buffer in heavy rainfall events, slowing the rate of run-off from the moorland tops.
The catchment's blanket bog degradation is due primarily to the activities of grouse-shooting estates. On Walshaw Moor, we have seen erosion from unconsented tracks, very extensive drainage, and aggressive burning on blanket bog. The increased scale of this activity over the past few years may well have been a contributory factor to the severity of the floods in our town."
October 2012. The RSPB has submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission over the handling of an estate in the South Pennines where a protected area of blanket bog habitat is under threat.
Following six months of investigation, the charity believes Natural England has contravened European environmental protection legislation in its dealings with the Walshaw Moor Estate, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. The site is home to an important area of blanket bog - a globally rare and threatened habitat of delicate mosses which supports scarce breeding wading birds such as dunlin and golden plover. Walshaw Moor is so vital for these species and habitats that it is protected by the highest European environmental designations.
Burning and draining of the bog
Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive, said: "The decision to lodge this complaint has not been taken lightly, but this is a vitally important issue which centres on the Government's statutory duty to protect our natural environment.
No adequate explanation
"Natural England has an excellent record but at Walshaw it has not fulfilled its duty to protect wildlife. This has happened in the year that the Government seeks to review its environmental agencies. We think this case is a timely reminder that we need a strong independent champion of the natural environment.
"This is just one of several protected areas in our uplands, and this case may set an important precedent for how these sites are managed in the future."