High Court stands up to Wild Justice on burning


Earlier this month, the High Court rejected an application for judicial review of Defra’s burning regulations. Their legal challenge, launched in July, claimed that because there is no map to identify where such peat is deeper than 40cm, the rules can’t be enforced.

The core of the campaign group’s challenge came from one source – a report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published four months after the latest regulations were approved by Parliament. This report is held up by those calling for an end to burning as having all the answers, but it (and Wild Justice) does not clearly lay out the evidence for this position.

Not only does the report not clearly show its working out, it acts as if we already have all the answers. To make big decisions, it’s important that we satisfy ourselves that we know have substance to back them up. So far, the CCC is yet to explain how it reached its conclusion on controlled winter burning.

We’re not the only ones questioning it.

In his response to the application from Wild Justice, the Honourable Mr Justice Dove stated that the CCC report ‘does not provide an arguable basis on which to contend that the Burning Regulations when they were made failed to have regard to climate change and the associated need to take action’. He also stated that ‘I do not accept that it is arguable that without a map the Burning Regulations cannot be enforced’ and correctly pointed to public sources from regulators and the Wildlife Trusts as part of the justification for a limit of 40cm depth.

Screenshot 2021-10-22 153943

Andreas Heinemeyer, Senior Researcher at the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, responded to the ruling on Twitter, stating that it “seems we really need some actual and robust evidence on impacts on carbon.” He should know. Not only does he have over 15 years expertise in the impacts of moorland management on carbon, but he also leads Defra’s long-term study on peatland management and ecosystem services in the UK. There is a reason Defra has spent a considerable sum of money on this study. In their own words, to provide in depth understanding of the management implications on key ecosystem services related to biodiversity, carbon, greenhouse gases and water.

This is a live situation and one we’re yet to find all the answers to before making big decisions that affect not only our countryside, but livelihoods and the environment.

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Heather, peatland and habitats

at 10:44 on 17/11/2021 by Nicholas Gibb

Not all ground or land is the same! What works for one, may not be the best for another! Heather burning is generally essential. Without it, the habitat changes and rarely for the better. The heather needs to be cycled, so that the older heather can be cleared, but also to allow the young to come to the surface and grow. This in turn improves grazing for all herbivores, improves insects like pollinators that are essential also. The topic is huge, so I’m trying to keep it brief. Regards peatland restoration….. I believe there are far more negatives than positives. Such as destroying habitat, shelter for wildlife or livestock big or small, disturbing the peat so that when we get heavy rain, the water will find the weak seems and wash it away faster. ( what happens to a ploughed field when it rains?). The burns, streams, rivers, canals and estuaries all fill up with mud, silt and sand, as well as all the extras, that end up blocking and filling up our waterways, creating more overall flooding. Back to the Peat, the same will happen! So we’re going to spend MILLIONS £‘s on changing the land and flattening it! Going to use thousands of gallons of fuel and oil to do the work? Yet we are also supposed to be reducing our emissions???? Seems counterproductive to me! The Peat hags are beautiful and a natural formation. Yes, they may have been partially created by man cutting turfs for the fires in the past, but they are not the enemy! I believe perhaps changes need to happen, however caution needs to be addressed. Time may be running out, but possibly doing the wrong thing in haste, could speed it up!


at 19:01 on 26/10/2021 by Mary Alford

Burning has been a tradition to keep the moorlands healthy especially the tick infestation that is deadly to animals and humans with lime decease . Natural England has too much power and bullying in pushing the hill farmers out of grazing stock and managing the commons with very little science behind their decisions with no baselines to work from its time they listen to tried and trusted methods of managing peat lands.

Wild Justice

at 18:24 on 26/10/2021 by Roger Hinton

I’m afraid that Mr Packham is only interested in getting shooting banned, if he was at all interested in wildlife and habitat he would not be doing the things that he does! It is obvious to me that he really knows nothing about the way that the countryside works and doesn’t care about livelihoods and communities who are the real custodians of our green and pleasant land and the flora and fauna within !!!!

Upland moor/wild justice

at 13:40 on 26/10/2021 by John L

As we know carbon capture and land management is a complex issue. Chris Packham and wild justice are asking many questions of the shooting community, and I believe it is our duty to find out as much as we can about the facts surrounding the impacts of our hobby/pastime/sport or job. Bodies such as the GWCT, the moorland association and BASC must have the science based facts to give to us so that we can go about our business in the knowledge we are not damaging the environment but are working towards a better one. Having read much about upland management I feel the biggest thorn in our side could well be raptor persecution. There are certain estates that simply must tidy up their acts. The shooting community needs to be squeaky clean. Conversion to non toxic loads as soon as possible will also help our cause. For Chris Packham and friends it’s not so much the winning of these cases but the raising of awareness.

wild justice

at 12:45 on 26/10/2021 by Ian Haddon

There must be a case now for the vexatious use of the courts?

Heather Burning

at 11:58 on 26/10/2021 by Stewart Hall

Although I no longer visit the moors of Scotland and northern England I fully appreciate the vital research you do. I would also like to see more burning of heather on the south and south-west moors and national parks where there are no longer any grouse, but plenty of other wildlife it would help.

Wild justice

at 11:31 on 26/10/2021 by Dave Peppet

Mr Packham and friends cause me confusion. The donated money they waste on cases they must know they can’t win could surely be put to better use. I know he’s not in favour of shooting (except deer) but surely cooperating with the shooting organisations to work to the common goal of a better environment would be far more constructive. Or am i being naive? It just seems like wasted resource and effort. We all want improved habitat

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