Thursday, 29 November 2012

Stopping the destruction of blanket bog

Earlier on this year, I wrote a blog about blanket bog, flooding and climate change to raise awareness of the problems occurring in Walshaw Moor near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Blanket bog is a rare, valuable habitat that supports biodiversity, and also has a very useful flood protection role (the Calder Valley including Hebden Bridge is very flood prone).

At that time environmental activists and local residents were concerned that damage to the blanket bog on Walshaw Moor might represent a breach of European environmental legislation that protects special habitats called the EU birds and habitats directive. I subsequently sent an official question to the European Commission (EU civil service)'s Environment department, which investigates possible non respect of EU environmental laws. I asked the Commission whether the inappropriate land management being undertaken on Walshaw Moor such as repeated burning of areas of blanket bog in order to provide a habitat for red grouse, and the construction of tracks to enable access for commercial grouse‑shooting, was breaching the legislation. 

This week I received a written answer to my question, which reads as follows:

"The Commission has very recently received a complaint regarding the management and protection of a part of the South Pennine Moors managed by the Walshaw Moor Estate Limited. The Commission is currently analysing this complaint and will ask the UK authorities to provide information in response to the alleged issues. Should it become apparent that the national authorities have not fulfilled their obligations in this respect, the Commission will take the necessary steps to ensure full compliance with the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Given that the Commission has not yet had an opportunity to assess the complaint and the allegations made with regard to the situation at Walshaw Moor it is not at this stage possible to answer the first question."

The official complaint mentioned by the Commission is the one lodged by the RSPB for the third time in its history. The RSPB complaint claims that Natural England, the government agency responsible for enforcing the EU birds and habitats directive, is failing to do so in Walshaw Moor. 

Natural England was undertaking legal proceedings against the Estate for 43 breaches of an environmental stewardship agreement, proceedings which were dropped following the conclusion of a new agreement, which the RSPB say is flawed as it essentially permits and even financially funds the very same destructive activities.  The RSPB say that Natural England has failed to take the steps needed to ensure the landowner does not continue to damage the land at Walshaw Moor and that they restore the degraded areas of blanket bog. 

I am supporting the RSPB complaint in any way I can, as from what I have seen there is a great danger that the land at Walshaw Moor will be damaged permanently from this failure to respect environmental legislation.  
It is vital to act in such a situation to stop destruction of beautiful and special parts of the Yorkshire countryside and to make sure that other protected habitats are given the protection they need, protection which by law they should have.

If you are concerned about the Walshaw Moor situation and would like to know more or find out what you can do, please contact my office at - European Commission Environment Department

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Liberal Democrat Michael Beckett - the kind of MP Rotherham needs!

Rotherham and Barnsley Liberal Democrats have selected Michael Beckett as their candidate in the Rotherham by-election. Michael comes from North Yorkshire where as well as being a local councillor, he has worked for the Citizen's Advice Bureau, a mental health charity, and run his own small business. 

Michael has dedicated his professional life to helping people, often the most vulnerable in society, which is very good training for the job of an MP, who should stand up for and help local people. Michael's sometimes frustrating experience of contacting MPs on behalf of CAB clients was one thing that motivated him to stand for Parliament: "I found that some MPs did very little to help their constituents and I thought that I could do a better job" he commented. Michael's experience running a small business also means he understands the problems business people face and the importance of supporting small businesses. 

As many people are no doubt aware, the parliamentary by-election has been called following the resignation of Rotherham's Labour MP Denis MacShane for fraudulent parliamentary expenses. An official report into Mr MacShane's expenses described his case as "the gravest ever investigated". 

Police are currently considering whether to bring criminal charges against Mr MacShane for the fraudulent activities he has now admitted in letters to parliamentary authorities. 

Labour have been in control in Rotherham for decades, yet many residents feel badly let down not only by an MP with no respect for public money, but also by an ineffectual Labour run Council recently embroiled in a child abuse scandal.

It is definitely time for a change in Rotherham and replacing a Labour party expense cheat with another Labour MP would seem to reward Labour for a corrupt MP and a council that failed to protect children. 

I was out talking to voters in Rotherham on Saturday with Michael Beckett and am happy to report that he was very well received on the doorstep. Many residents, including long term Labour voters, agreed that it was time for some real change and that they would like an MP who would be dedicated to working for the people of Rotherham. 

On the doorstep Michael gave people a number of good reasons to vote for him including:

- His first priority would be to be to serve the people of Rotherham;

- His extensive experience of helping people makes himself very well qualified to be a good constituency MP for Rotherham;

- Liberal Democrats are in government getting things done and pushing for policies that help ordinary people, like increasing the tax threshold to £10k. 

Good luck to Michael on Thursday 29th November!

Monday, 12 November 2012

UPDATE: Harrogate Liberal Democrats take Tory Council seat

Friday 16 November 2012:

Congratulations to newly elected Liberal Democrat Councillor David Siddans and the Harrogate Liberal Democrats! David took the Tory council seat of Rosset with a massive 25% swing towards the Liberal Democrats, leaving him with 48.9% of the vote on a 38% turnout. 

To see the full results, please click here


The Liberal Democrat campaign to snatch a Tory council seat in Harrogate in the forthcoming Rossett ward by-election has hit the ground running. The by-election was caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Michelle Woolley, who stepped down due to a new job. 

The Liberal Democrat candidate is David Siddans, a local resident with a long history of community involvement, including in the Harrogate Library and the Harrogate Civic Society. 

The key campaign issue is a plan to build 680 houses in the Cardale Park area of Rossett ward. The Conservatives back the development, but the Liberal Democrats oppose it because the current plans would see the new houses built on a green field site without any provision made for additional infrastructure such as roads and school places. 

Being a local resident and a civil engineer, Liberal Democrat candidate David Siddans knows only too well that a housing development of this scale in this area would need appropriate investment to avoid to overloading existing infrastructures.

I went to Rossett today to spend a couple of hours helping the by-election team. Local Liberal Democrat activist Les Parkes told me that "David has been getting a great reception on the doorstep in Rossett; local residents clearly recognise he would make a great councillor for the area". 

Good luck to David this Thursday!