The Government has been urged to undertake an urgent review of its processes for environmental designation by the organisation representing land, property and business in rural England and Wales.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has cited the designation of Penwith Moors as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as a prime example as to why the review is needed.
The organisation’s president Mark Tufnell recently wrote to Trudy Harrison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to highlight the plight being faced by those living and farming in the area, saying it is causing real distress.
In his letter, he said poor communication and a cavalier attitude to people’s livelihoods had been taken by Natural England, a government body, when designating the area as a SSSI.
Penwith Moors was notified by Natural England as an SSSI on 7 October 2022. The designation recognises the resulting special features of 59 parcels of semi-natural habitat and farmland spanning over 3,100 hectares of lowland heath, stretching from St Just to St Ives, in West Cornwall. Once notified, land managers must apply to Natural England for consent to carry out certain activities, including ploughing, feeding stock, spreading manure and pest control.
A four-month consultation period – which allows anyone to comment or object to the notification - comes to a close on 7 February 2023. With the deadline fast approaching, the CLA is urging those affected by the designation to take part and make their views known.
Ann Maidment, Regional Director for the CLA in the South West, commented: “Farmers and land managers already play their part in restoring nature and farming with the environment in mind, however the CLA are concerned that the impact of the designation of Penwith Moors has not taken into account the farming sector in Cornwall, and the ability for farmers to make land management decisions in a timely fashion. We also believe that it lays bare some of the problems with the designation process more widely that need to be addressed.
“Our members have expressed a number of concerns over the designation. Penwith Moors has a history dating back nearly 4,000 years when it comes to being used for agriculture and livestock grazing. The impact of the proposed SSSI designation is so great it will be disastrous for many landowning businesses. We do not want these deep seated traditions to come to an abrupt end which is why we are working with anybody who is affected and providing them with the advice and support they need at this time. For those who have questions about the effects of the designation we are here to help.
“With the consultation due to end in February, it is vital that people make their voices heard, which is why we are urging anybody who hasn’t already done so to respond without delay.”
The impact of the proposed SSSI designation is so great it will be disastrous for many landowning businesses. We do not want these deep seated traditions to come to an abrupt end which is why we are working with anybody who is affected and providing them with the advice and support they need at this time.