This blog is run by the Keresley Hay Meadow Campaign. We are trying to save our local wildflower meadow in Somers Road, Keresley, Warwickshire.
Natural England is the government body that regulates nature conservation. They decide whether a site is important enough to protect.
Despite our meadow being an officially designated Local Wildlife Site, and despite the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust strongly supporting its being kept as a wildlflower meadow, Natural England gave the landowner permission to spray the meadow with pesticides, plough it and intensively sow wheat. We know that the farmer in the end wants to sell the meadow for building – wheat is a step towards that plan.
We have been campaigning against the destruction of the meadow since April 2014. We talked to Natural England, to our local councillors, to our MP and we attempted to talk to the landowner (he refused to meet with us, or respond to our communications). We made Freedom of Information requests. We started a petition, which you can sign here:
The petition has more signatures than you can see online – about half are on paper, so our total is more than 1000.
In the course of all this, we learnt that Natural England, despite its name and stated purpose, is not protecting nature. We discovered that they have had 1074 applications to plough grassland since 2005 and they have refused consent only once.
This sounds like a regulator that is not regulating.
The UK desperately needs grasslands. We have lost 97% of our good quality grassland since the 1930s. Meadows like Somers Road Meadow:
- Support bees and other vital pollinators
- Provide habitat for many species that depend on wild grasses and flowers – from butterflies to barn owls
- Help protect our rivers from pollution,
- Hold together healthy soils that store carbon
- Retain water and so reduce flooding.
- High quality pastoral produce – such as beef and lamb – comes from livestock that graze species-rich grasslands or feed on the forage from hay meadows in the winter.
You can read more about grassland at the Wildlife Trust website:
Warwickshire is even shorter of grasslands than the rest of the country – we have less than half the national average.
In the end, we went to court to try to stop the destruction of the meadow.
Natural England, unusually, settled out of court with us, conceding just one of our points – that in their original decision they had failed to consult the Wildlife Trust. They agreed to re-run their decision process – but came back with the same decision, that the landowner was free to plough.
We went back to court, and now have an injunction, preventing the farmer from ploughing or otherwise interfering with the field for the moment. The matter will go before a High Court judge, probably sometime in June 2015. He or she will look at the papers, from us and from Natural England, and decide whether there is sufficient merit to warrant a full Judicial Review.
Natural England Failed Us is a blog for individuals and groups concerned about Natural England’s policies and practices in managing the environment and biodiversity in England. We think Natural England is getting it wrong, and that important and well-loved sites are being lost, in some cases forever.
To read more about our campaign so far, click the green circle on the right of this page (Menu). You’ll see a menu of things to read at the top of the page.
If you have information or questions, please contact us using the contact form – especially if you have a story from your area about Natural England’s management of the natural environment. We want to build a campaign of local groups and individuals who want to save their natural and wild spaces and hold Natural England to account.
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org