European Commission starts legal action over burning of UK protected sites

May 12, 2016

The European Commission has started legal action against the UK Government following formal complaints from RSPB and Ban the Burn (a Hebden Bridge-based campaign group) as regards land management of Walshaw Moss, an upland shooting estate and protected Special Area of Conservation (SAC) that is recognised for its globally important blanket bog habitat.

Natural England raised serious concerns as regards land management practices by land manager Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd, and in 2010 took steps to review historic consents that underpinned these practices. This was challenged by the Estate and a public inquiry into the matter started in January 2012. Natural England also attempted to stop burning on site and began prosecution against alleged damage.

In March 2012, Natural England dropped legal action. RSPB believed this decision to be in breach of the requirements of the European Habitats Directive and Birds Directive to protect South Pennine Moors, prompting them to submit the formal complaint. Further evidence collected by RSPB on the management of blanket bog on other upland sites in England has also since been provided to the European Commission.

On April 29th, 2016, news was received that the European Commission had decided to commence legal action:

"Today we have learned that our [RSPBs] complaint and a separate complaint submitted by Ban the Burn have led to the European Commission beginning legal action against the UK Government by issuing a Letter of Formal Notice. This is the starting gun of a full infraction procedure when the Commission considers a Member State has not applied the relevant laws properly."

Read RSPB's response in Martin Harper's blog and more detail about the case on their website.

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