Disappointment in SSSI ruling of Penwith Moors, says CLA

The CLA provides a statement on Natural England’s designation of Penwith Moors, in Cornwall, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Penwith Moors

We are deeply disappointed with the decision to designate all of Penwith Moors as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). In doing so, Natural England chose to ignore the concerns of the farmers and land managers who know the area best.

Our members do incredible work to restore nature on their land, with some engaging in pioneering activities for nature’s recovery. Yet this designation has not taken into account the ability of farmers to make land management decisions in a timely fashion.

Natural England has not published a clear plan for how the site, which covers more than 3,000 hectares, should be managed. The lack of detail means that businesses do not know what they will be able to do once the designation commences.

The decision fails to take into account any socio-economic factors. The impact of this SSSI designation will likely be disastrous for many. Not only will land managers now have to apply to Natural England for consent to carry out every day activities, the consent would be temporary, likely take a long time to be considered and may not be granted at all.

Many farmers within the boundary will have concerns as to the ongoing viability of their already-stretched businesses. We call on Natural England to bring forward all management plans and agree sufficient funding arrangements with Defra well before designation is implemented.

We also believe the designation of Penwith Moors as a SSSI lays bare some of the problems with the designation process more widely that need to be addressed. Lessons have clearly not been learnt from previous designations and we feel that the government needs to undertake an urgent review of its processes for environmental designation and ongoing site management, as in its current format they cause real distress to farmers and landowners.

Conservation is achieved through collaboration and cooperation, yet there is a feeling that this has been a process of imposition. The whole process needs to be re-designed, with better evidence, better communication of that evidence and what it means for farmers in practice. Management plans must be consulted on, and a funding plan that rewards new ways of managing the land must be brought forward.

Everyone wants to see better environmental outcomes. But these can only be delivered if those who manage the land stay in business

Whilst we are disappointed with the decision, work must now start urgently to rebuild the relationships and trust that have been damaged during this process. We at the CLA will continue to support those who farm and manage land across Penwith Moors.