Natural England proposes legislation to improve access to England’s coastline

Dykes can no longer stem the tide

President Barroso recognises biodiversity conservation is a vital part of the debate on the future of Europe

Wild boar concerns prompt study

A new 'countryside' map of UK seas

Eco-millionaire's land grab prompts fury

Ministers should reject damaging wind farm proposal

No action after fox killed at Royal shoot

Research shows public support for badger cull

Defra has launched a consultation on its long-term vision for marine fisheries

Natural England proposes legislation to improve access to England’s coastline

Natural England Press Release 14 Feb 2007

Natural England proposals for improving access to the English coast. Subject to the approval of its Board on 21 February, Natural England looks set to advise the Government to introduce legislation to create a new right of public access to England’s coastline along a continuous access corridor.

Comprehensive rights do not currently exist, making access to the coastline difficult, or creating a stop-start effect, in many parts of the country. Since it was created last October, Natural England has re-consulted stakeholders and analysed the options.

Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England said: “We are minded to advise the Government to provide Natural England with the powers to deliver a new right of access to the coast. My Board will be recommended to approve proposals to create clear and well managed public access along the entire 4000 km length of England’s coast. Where existing access works well, we won’t intervene.”

Sir Martin continued, “We want to ensure the right balance between national momentum and local flexibility. Our solution would provide the public with continuous access along the length of the undeveloped English coast and land managers with the opportunity to be involved in designing sensible local solutions. We also want to enhance the coastal environment for both wildlife and the public. This integrated solution exemplifies why Natural England was created in the first place.”

A full copy of the proposals that will be considered by Natural England’s Board can be found on

Threat That Landowners Will Receive no Compensation in Coastal Access Report

Country Land & Business Association Press release 14 Feb 2007

In response to the report by Natural England Improving Coastal Access, David Fursdon, President of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) said:

"The danger that there will be no compensation to landowners where their property is used for public access under these proposals seems draconian. In creating any new legislation provision there should be a presumption of compensation paid where a loss is shown. There also seems to be few safeguards for land managers which exist in existing public access legislation.

"Whilst the CLA is heartened that managers and owners of coastal land will be involved in any access arrangements and there is an ability for local solutions to be found, the devil will surely be in the detail so we will be watching developments every closely.

He added: "Existing access arrangements to English coastal areas already attracts 70 million visitors per year but of these only 9% walk for longer than an hour or for more than 2 miles. CLA asks where is the public demand and what is the value in spending up to £50m of tax payers' money? Providing access alone does not increase the number of visitors to rural areas or boost the rural economy; the Government's own English Day Visitor survey shows a 33% fall in day visit in 2005.

Natural England takes wrong turning on coastal access

NFU Press Release 14 Feb 2007

Natural England’s plans for creating a statutory right of access to coastal land have been sharply criticised by the NFU as being a recipe for confrontation and controversy.

The Government’s recently formed conservation advisory body has recommended that a coastal access corridor should be created around the whole of the undeveloped English coast, other than where good quality access already exists. It is arguing against compensation to landowners, despite the fact that there is no provision in the proposals as they stand for land to be closed off for short periods - during lambing, for example - as there is under the access to open country legislation.

The NFU argues that this is the wrong approach, and that increased coastal access could be achieved more speedily and with much less controversy and confrontation through local solutions put together by local partnerships.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond commented: “We share Natural England’s aspiration of improving access to the coastline, but we firmly believe that this should be achieved by agreement rather than by imposition. These proposals, which appear to take no account at all of entirely justifiable agricultural concerns, can only generate conflict and confrontation, when what we should be cultivating is co-operation and consent.

“It is a great pity that Natural England should embark on a course of action which, as they must know, risks miring an issue as sensitive and important as increasing access to the coastline in unnecessary controversy. We think that this is the wrong way to go and we will continue to make that very clear both to Natural England and the Government.”

Government urged to create coastal corridor

Guardian 14 Feb 2007

Some of Britain's most vociferous outdoor groups, including the Ramblers' Association (RA), the British Canoe Union, British Mountaineering Council, and the Open Spaces Society urged the government to grant inclusive access rights along the coast. The group called for a coastal zone which could generate income for local communities and help protect the coast against the impact of climate change and rising sea-levels.

"We're an island nation and the coast is a precious part of our heritage, yet access to it is patchy at best. There's no right to walk on the foreshore between mean and high tides, so even a child building a sandcastle may technically be trespassing," said Kate Ashbrook, chair of the Ramblers Association.

Dykes can no longer stem the tide

EU Press Release14 Feb 2007

Building dykes is no longer enough to hold back rising water levels in low-lying countries.  The authorities have managed to keep rivers in a straitjacket for years, but now they are threatening to burst out of it.  To avoid serious damage, we have to allow the water more space, and allow controlled flooding.  Temporary water storage can be an excellent combination with nature conservation and recreational usage.  This is the key message of the Best Practice Manual ( ), the manual presented by the transnational government project FraME at its closing conference in Antwerp, following a four years’ intensive cooperation.  

In densely-populated regions like ours, it is advisable to combine various types of land use.  Traditionally, agriculture, nature development and recreation had not been linked to controlled flooding areas.  An unjustified approach, according to the Best Practice Manual produced by FRaME.   By dividing up the available space creatively, walkers and nature-lovers can enjoy a beautiful area that increases protection against flooding.

FRaME has supported the following five projects.  In the Netherlands, the Zuiderklip project converted former agricultural polders into a water containment area with nature and recreational facilities.  In the Noordrand Goeree-Overflakkee project, FRaME has demonstrated that containing surplus water can be combined with provision of water supplies and the establishment of ecological connecting zones.  In the Belgian area of Kruibeke-Bazel-Rupelmonde, water can now flood in a controlled manner, to contain storm floods from the River Scheldt.  Around the River IJzer, FRaMe is exploiting the attractiveness of water for both wildlife (birds) and people.  In the United Kingdom (Alkborough Flats project), an area previously used for intensive agriculture has been allowed to flood (water from the River Humber) to make it a nature reserve (see the entry in the WN Rewilding Project Database).  All the experience with these projects and solutions has now been compiled into the Best Practice Manual (

Pictures of all the FRaME demonstration sites are available on

President Barroso recognises biodiversity conservation is a vital part of the debate on the future of Europe

Birdlife International News 12 Feb 2007

The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso today gave a strong statement about the importance of biodiversity conservation in Europe at a meeting with representatives from BirdLife International, where a new report -“Wellbeing Through Wildlife in the EU”, for which the President wrote the foreword - was launched.

The President congratulated BirdLife on the publication of the report and emphasised the need to effectively communicate – through real life examples - the positive impact of biodiversity conservation on society and Europe’s future.

The EU has committed to halt the loss of wildlife (biodiversity) across the EU by 2010, which Mr Barroso concedes has been extensive. He states in the foreword: “Biodiversity loss, and the consequent decline of ecosystem services, is a grave threat to our societies and economies.”

The President further underlined that joint action for biodiversity is “a vital, and indeed vitalising, part of the debate on the future of Europe” and is an area where cooperation at EU level has “real added value”, for example through the establishment of the Natura 2000 network of conservation areas, which he sees as one of the key tools of the EU to achieve the 2010 target.

The new BirdLife report highlights (through 26 concrete case studies from across Europe) the importance of biodiversity for the health, quality of life and prosperity of all EU citizens. It shows how long term economic development relies on environmental resources and functioning ecosystems, how access to green space improves physical and mental health and how education in the natural environment benefits current and future generations.

The report (2Mb PDF) can be downloaded from

Wild boar concerns prompt study

BBC News Online 9 Feb 2007

A six-month monitoring period will be carried out on wild boar in Devon. The decision was taken at a public meeting organised by Buckland Monachorum Parish Council, following growing concern at several boar, including a sow and her young, being spotted near Buckland Monachorum and Roborough.

Charlie Wilson from Natural England told the meeting the creatures are not generally aggressive, although sows would react to protect their young if they felt threatened.S ome walkers have reported their dogs being threatened, and there is also concern about the damage the animals are causing to grazing land.

The monitoring will be jointly carried out by Natural England, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Maristow Estate.

A new 'countryside' map of UK seas

Natural England 7 Feb 2007

A two-year project has resulted in the first marine landscape maps for the whole of the UK sea area. Far less is known about our seas than is known about our land. Surveying underwater landscapes is difficult and until now sea maps have been restricted to small, detailed areas that are few and far between.

The new maps give a more complete picture, showing 44 large-scale marine landscapes that reflect the equivalent of mountains, valleys and plains of the marine environment, together with major habitat types. The classification also includes estuaries and bays on the coast, sandbanks and pinnacles offshore and seamounts in our deep seas.

The UK SeaMap project, part-funded by Defra, is a partnership of ten organisations including Government Departments, agencies, advisers and conservation charities. The work was undertaken by marine specialists with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

PDF copies of the marine landscapes map and the full report as well as pictures to illustrate some examples of the habitats that occur in different marine landscapes are available from the Natural England Press Office. Further details, including a web mapping application showing the outputs from the project, can be found at

Eco-millionaire's land grab prompts fury

The Observer 4 Feb 2007

Douglas Tompkins, who calls himself a 'deep ecologist', is a millionaire buying up some of Argentina's last frontier lands to preserve them from human encroachment and turning them into ecological reserves.

Tompkins, 63, believes that unless runaway consumerism is halted, 'we humans will be building ourselves a beautiful coffin in space called planet Earth'. Opponents are branding him a new-age 'imperialist gringo' and claim he has a secret aim: to help the US military gain control of the country's natural resources.

Argentinians are uncomfortable with Tompkins transforming his properties into environmentally pristine but unpopulated and economically unproductive areas.

Tompkins and his wife, Kristine McDivitt, a former CEO of the Patagonia clothing retail chain, first went to Ibera in the late 1990s. After being initially unimpressed - 'it's as flat as a billiard table' - they eventually succumbed to the challenge, putting the accent on restoring the original wildlife.

'Wetlands are not up there in the collective human mind, they get very poor conservation protection, but there is an enchantment in every ecosystem,' said Tompkins. 'The land has been environmentally degraded and many of the indigenous animals have disappeared,' he went on. 'We've started with the marsh deer. Eventually we'll be able to reintroduce the jaguar, the top of the food chain.'

Tompkins expects that in 15 to 20 years he could turn his Ibera estate into a national park. 'It can take that long to generate a change in attitude. Tourism has to become a national priority.'

'My intention has always been to eventually turn over the land to the Argentinian government for a national park.' He has already done so, donating an estate in Patagonia to the National Parks administration in 2004.

Despite all the difficulties, Tompkins is optimistic about converting opponents to his way of thinking. 'I see an unstoppable wave of environmentalism. Environmental problems arise from the mistaken notion that humans come first. They have to come second. This has not sunk into the political and social leadership.',,2005476,00.html

Ministers should reject damaging wind farm proposal

RSPB Scotland 2 February 2007

RSPB Scotland has submitted a formal objection to Lewis Wind Power's modified proposal to build a wind farm on Lewis, in the Western Isles, because of the devastating impact it would have. The Scottish Executive has been seeking comment on the developer's plans - but from Monday the book is shut, and ministers should then decide whether this project goes ahead.

Most of the development would be sited in a Special Protection Area (SPA) that is protected under European law. Before deciding that significant environmental impacts are acceptable, ministers must be sure that there are no alternatives, and that there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest which justify serious damage to a protected site.

Having scrutinised the detail of their application, RSPB Scotland remain concerned about the damaging impacts the development would cause. The developer’s own environmental assessment identifies potential for 600MW of onshore wind generation elsewhere on the Western Isles outside the SPA, and of course many other suitable schemes can be found elsewhere in Scotland. The number of jobs that the development could support has also been challenged by independent experts.

No action after fox killed at Royal shoot

EDP24 1 February 2007

Nobody will face prosecution over the killing of a fox during a Royal shooting party.

The RSPCA launched an investigation after a photographer captured images of a fox apparently being beaten with a large stick and after being shot. The animal had strayed into the middle of a pheasant shoot led by the Duke of Edinburgh.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said:
“We have investigated and concluded there are no grounds for a prosecution. An independent post mortem examination was carried out and found that the fox died from gunshot wounds and no evidence of other injury or trauma was found. The only witness who could have supported the reported version of events refused to give a statement.”

Last November, a gamekeeper on the Sandringham estate was fined £500 for illegally using a trap in which an owl was caught.

Research shows public support for badger cull

Farming Online 1 Feb 2007

Research of public opinion by the NFU has found that a clear majority of the British public would support a legal cull of infected badgers if the government judged it necessary to bring bovine tuberculosis under control.

The research was conducted last autumn by independent consultants England Marketing, among four focus groups drawn from members of the public with no connection either with farming or with wildlife conservation groups in Carmarthen, Bristol, Preston and Cannock.

Support for a legal cull of infected badgers was found amongst 74 per cent , with 26 per cent against. Around two thirds of those interviewed were aware cattle can contract TB, and 58 per cent of them knew the disease can be spread to cattle by badgers.

The focus groups were When asked by the researchers whether it would make any difference to the likelihood of their buying British food if farmers were themselves involved in culling badgers, as part of a government-led strategy, 84 per cent - it would make no difference with only 5 per cent saying it would make it more likely, and 11 per cent less likely.  There were no marked differences in view between the more urban focus groups and the more rural ones.

Commenting on the research results, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said that the findings showed that neither the government nor farmers need fear a public backlash if a targeted cull of diseased badgers was introduced to help bring TB under control.

Defra has launched a consultation on its long-term vision for marine fisheries

Defra news release 1 Feb 2007

A sustainable fisheries sector is essential for delivering the Government’s vision of “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”. Fish and shellfish are a valuable resource shared between communities, regions and nations: we all have a role in making sure that they are used sustainably. This means getting the best possible economic and social benefits from fishing for the least environmental cost – including safeguarding stocks for the future.

The consultation paper - Fisheries 2027: towards a contract for the future of marine fisheries - sets out Defra’s vision of this sector in 20 years’ time. Defra wants this paper to move all involved towards a contract for the future of marine fisheries which will:

  • make it clear what we are all trying to achieve

  • set out the relative priorities of delivering economic and social benefits and protecting the environment

  • explain the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in achieving sustainability

This is the first example of an environmental contract in practice.

The final version, which we plan to publish in the summer, will set a clear direction for future fisheries policy.

Further information: