Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Defra: Upland Stakeholders Forum

I attended the third meeting of this Forum in London on 10 September.  The Forum met for the first time in July but a series of quick-fire meetings are being held to gather some momentum and reach a decision on its future role.  There will be two more meetings before the end of the year.

The Forum has been reviewing strategic upland issues and receiving updates from Natural England on the work they are engaged with (following the Walshaw Moor inquiry) that includes the Review of Upland Evidence and a revision of the consenting regime for work on Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  I have volunteered to provide some input to the review of the consenting regime and there is hope that it might be possible to introduce arrangements to allow some minor works to be granted deemed consent, providing there are adequate safeguards.

Other topics discussed include the review of the Less Favoured Areas regime, to become Areas of Natural Constraint, and I sneaked in a briefing about heather beetle.

The Moorland Burning Working Group will be providing an input to this Forum, and Arik Dondi from Defra, who is part of this Forum, has taken over as Chairman of the Burning Group.

A Hen harrier sub-group has been formed and this will be considering Hen harrier issues in conjunction with the Environment Council led initiative, which faces an uncertain future following the withdrawal of the RSPB.

It is good for the Trust to providing some input into discussions at this level in England and I am able to bring my experience of what is taking place elsewhere in the UK to the discussions.

In view of his responsibility for English upland policy, Adam Smith, GWCT Director for Scotland, joined the Forum at this meeting, and he will also be able to provide some cross-border input.

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