The Walshaw Moor Estate Limited owns and manages Walshaw and Lancashire Moors for grouse shooting and has over recent years introduced management changes to significantly increase the number of grouse that can be shot each year.
Until March this year, Natural England was taking action to secure appropriate conservation management that would ensure the delicate blanket bog habitats found on the Estate were protected and restored to favourable condition. These actions included:
Prosecuting the Estate on 43 grounds of alleged unconsented damage to the European and national protected areas in order to secure their restoration;
Modifying historic consents with the aim of securing more appropriate management to protect and restore the blanket bog habitats and the wildlife that depends on them, in particular by regulating the extent to which the blanket bog habitats are burnt to provide habitat for red grouse.
On 9 March 2012, Natural England suddenly announced it had reached a settlement with the Estate relating to the type and level of management of the Estate’s land in the South Pennine Moors. Natural England and the Estate agreed to halt all legal actions against each other, including Natural England dropping its prosecution. Having been following these issues for several years, we were very surprised and concerned at this turn of events and sought immediate clarification from Natural England on the reasons for its dramatic change in approach. This clarification confirmed that Natural England had granted the Estate a new consent on 1 March 2012 that sets out how the Estate can manage its land in the SAC and SPA. Natural England decided that the Estate’s proposed management measures would cause no harm to the habitats and species protected by the SAC and SPA.
However, these measures included:
Maintaining existing infrastructure, including some that was the subject of prosecution by Natural England in order to secure restoration of damage to the SAC and SPA;
Allowing burning of blanket bog that it had previously been seeking to halt. This includes burning of degraded blanket bog that would prevent it being restored to favourable condition.
We have considered Natural England’s justification for granting this new consent carefully. We consider it flawed and that it breaches the Habitats and Birds Directives’ protection for SACs and SPAs. Rather than protecting the blanket bog habitats and the wildlife that depends on them, we consider that Natural England’s decisions result in harm and prevent restoration of the SAC/SPA to favourable condition.
Submitting this complaint is the only route left open to us to achieve the following objectives:
Overturning those decisions;
Making good the damage to the South Pennine Moors SAC and SPA; and
Putting in place appropriate conservation management that will enable the blanket bog habitats (and the wildlife that depends on them) to be restored to and then maintained in favourable condition.