The strange case of the missing 10,000ha of Dartmoor Training Area SSSI

A couple of weeks ago, the Government released a list of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in public hands, in response to a question from Caroline Lucas. The list indicated that over 70,000ha of Defence owned land was SSSI. That’s a hefty chunk of their 200,000ha of land in England.

I had a look down the list and noticed that according to Defra, the MoD only has 1008ha of the North Dartmoor SSSI, which has a total area of 13,559ha. Having surveyed 5000ha of the Dartmoor Training Area for the MoD in 2006 and 2007, that didn’t sound right to me.

As this map shows, the army have around 11,000ha of the North Dartmoor SSSI under their control.

Dartmoor training area overlaid on SSSI

Most of that land is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and leased to the army for training. The lease was up in 2012, but I am pretty sure it has been, or is being renewed. Either way it should have been included in the list.

So that’s 10,000ha of MoD-controlled SSSI land missing from the list. Adding in this land would mean that over 40% of Defence owned or controlled land is SSSI.

I wonder how many other examples of “missing” land like this are out there.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in Military Land, SSSis and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The strange case of the missing 10,000ha of Dartmoor Training Area SSSI

  1. Well spotted, is this worth a parliamentary question? I’ll reblog and draw to attention of Dartmoor Preservation Association.

    • Miles King says:

      thanks Kate.

      The issue seems to be that the agreement between MoD and Duchy on Dartmoor is a licence not a lease.

      The original question asked about land “owned by” Public Bodies and Eustice replied on the basis of SSSI “where there is a tenure interest”.

      It definitely needs a follow up. I was wondering about “SSSIs where public bodies are wholly or partly responsible for their management”.

      From reading around it yesterday it appears that MoD pulled a fast one when renewing the licence, by arguing it was merely an extension of an existing lease, and therefore did not require either an EIA or an appropriate assessment. Are you still challenging this?

  2. Mark Fisher says:

    There are other anomalies and omissions that really bring in to question the validity of this document. For instance, no entry for Wetley Moor or Ashdown Forest under Local Authorities, and Lindisfarne is double counted at over 80% for both Natural England and Crown Estates.

    • Miles King says:

      thanks Mark.

      My understanding of Ashdown Forest is that the Common Land is owned by a charitable trust The Ashdown Forest Trust, so technically it’s not owned by East Sussex County Council.

      As you say it does mean that these figures need to be handled with caution

      • Mark Fisher says:

        The council is sole Trustee!

        Click to access AF_TRUST_DEED.pdf

        The thing is, local people rose to the challenge to fund the purchase of the Forest by donations and through an appeal. Given the way their views on management of the forest have been swept aside over the last decade, then they may have thought twice about stumping up the money.

      • Miles King says:

        Thanks Mark. Perhaps another parliamentary question could be asked, for the area of SSSI owned or tenanted by charities, and its condition.

  3. Steve Alton says:

    Ashdown Forest is managed in accordance with the wishes of Natural England, who fund that management through Higher Level Stewardship. As long as the Commoners are free to exercise their rights and the public have free access to enjoy the Forest as ‘an amenity and place of resort’, then the requirements of the 1974 Ashdown Forest Act are being met. Contrary to popular opinion, not everything is amenable to a democratic process.

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