a wildflower meadow (c) Miles King
In these days where devolution is in the air, it’s worth considering how differently two UK countries use regulation to protect wildlife.
This press release from the Country Landowners Association Cymru, was picked up by Farmers Guardian.
CLA Cymru reminds members to pay heed to EIA regulations before ploughing or cultivating their unimproved land.
“We have become aware of members who have been caught out following random inspection visits and who now could face prosecution as a result,” says CLA Cymru Director of Policy Karen Anthony, who points out the regulation has in fact been in force since 2002 and were revised in October 2007.
The EIA – the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – refers to anyone who is thinking about ploughing, re-seeding, harrowing, rotavating or putting in new drainage.
The question you need to ask is “Does the work I intend to carry out require EIA screening?” says Mrs Anthony, who stressed that permission is needed before you go ahead.
Its purpose it to stop agricultural practices affecting the environment especially sites that have significant environmental, historic or cultural importance. It also covers harrowing, rotovating and clearing scrub.
Ultimately, the regulations apply if you intend carrying out an agricultural improvement project on any uncultivated or semi-natural land ranging from moor to meadowland and where the area has less than 25 percent improved agricultural species. If you do, you need a screening decision from the Government BEFORE you proceed.
You will need to submit a Screening Application Form [EIA2(W)] to your local WG Divisional Office and wait for a response which can take up to 35 days. There is no charge and the decisions are valid for three years.
I spent a long time researching the EIA (Agriculture) Regulations, raising concerns with Defra, meeting the Welsh Assembly Government, and ultimately taking a complaint to the European Commission. Sadly, before the complaint could be resolved, The Grasslands Trust went under, so it was never seen through to completion.
Since then Natural England has finally taken a successful prosecution under the EIA regs in England. Whooppee! Sadly, hundreds of hectares of valuable meadows were lost in the preceding 7 years while NE failed to secure any prosecutions and were actively prevented by Defra from pursuing any miscreants.
The situation in Wales has been quite different. The Welsh Government from the beginning took a much more positive approach to implementing the EIA regulations, especially through withdrawing CAP payments. To my knowledge this never happened in England. And this press release from CLA Cymru proves that by applying a regulation, it becomes more effective, through the deterrent effect.
CLA Cymru’s position compares favourably with CLA England’s view of the effectiveness of EIA (agriculture) in England. CLA England support the Government’s deregulation drive, reducing the capacity of public bodies to protect the public interest against private profit. In evidence to the EFRA committee last December they said “Grassland is sufficiently well protected under the EIA Regulations” (point 46).
This could be translated as “we know grassland isn’t well protected by the EIA Regulations, but that’s fine because other things we think our members care about, such as having the freedom to destroy nationally important wildlife habitats to make more money, are more important”.
I guess CLA Cymru think its members have a different take on what’s more important.
Hopefully Scotland will be more positive to its wild places….
Sadly, NE metamorphosised from 1997s “Muzzled Watchdog” to a “Toothless Terrier” (see Mark Avery http://markavery.info/2013/01/17/guest-blog-a-muzzled-watchdog-toothless-terrier-helen-kirk/) and through the Walshaw debacle rapidly to become a “lap-dog”? I’m certain that there are good staff working for NE but my experience has been that they are as rare as Hen Harriers on upland grouse moors.
Following the sad loss of The Grasslands Trust was the case just dropped by the European Commission? Do they not have an obligation to determine once a complaint with evidence is submitted?
Thanks for your comment.
I think the complaint has been in suspended animation, but I understand the EC was keen to “wrap it up” as were Defra.
The Northern Ireland Government makes the implications of the regulations very clear on its Department for Agriculture & Rural Development’s website: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/news-dard-pa179-a-13-semi-natural-habitats. What effect the regulations actually have or have had within the Province, who can say? (That’s not a rhetorical question!)
How many prosecutions or how much single payment has been with-held in Northern Ireland as a result of EIA (agriculture) breaches. These would be two measures of how effectively this regulation is being implemented.