Campaigners call for bog burn ban

Ban The Burn protestors outside Natural England's head office
Ban The Burn protestors outside Natural England's head office

The Moorland Association has hit back at accusations that burning on grouse moors above the upper Calder Valley causes flooding.

The claim was made by Ban The Burn campaigners who marched on Natural England’s head office armed with mops and buckets to promote the message “Don’t Fund Flooding”.

Protestors have said that millions of pounds of public money (from Natural England) is being paid out in “environmental stewardship” subsidies to grouse moor owners who are burning protected blanket bog. They believe this is detrimental to designated priority habitat, decreases the ability of peat-lands to store rain water, and the bare ground left after burning increases run-off of water.

Jim Peterken, a Ban The Burn supporter, said: “Grouse moor owners are being paid millions of pounds through the environmental stewardship scheme, to protect the uplands. But they are burning blanket bog and making flooding worse in areas like Hebden Bridge. Not to mention destroying biodiversity.”

However Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association - an acclaimed national organisation protecting over 850,000 acres of globally recognised heather moorland, said: “Best practice cool burns do not leave the ground bare and are essential to protect against wildfires whilst also providing food for sheep and grouse and the patchwork mosaic that results provides habitat for many threatened waders. There is no evidence to link burning with flooding.”

A spokesperson for National England said: “Until March 2012 there were no agreed limits to management activities, such as burning, grazing and vehicular use on the Walshaw Estate above Hebden Bridge. In March 2012 we were able to enter a management agreement and Higher Level stewardship agreement with the estate. Now, for the first time, burning activities on the Walshaw Estate will be subject to specific controls.

“In the areas where it has been agreed that burning can take place, limits have been set regarding the length of the burning rotation.”

Ban The Burn protestors handed a letter in to Natural England raising their concerns and also calling for the banning of burning on blanket bog.