Natural England ‘land grab’ threatens Cornish livelihoods

Farmers in Cornwall have accused Natural England of placing their livelihoods in danger over plans to designate land used for rising food crops as a website of particular scientific curiosity (SSSI).

Stephen and Vivian Cock, house owners of Land Vue Farm, in Newbridge, have been knowledgeable by Natural England that it desires to designate as much as one-third of their land, which is used for arable cropping, an SSSI.

They farm round 162ha within the Penzance space close to Land’s End and if the designation is authorised, they may lose 40ha on one farm and 10ha on one other.

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Stephen mentioned the land in query had been farmed by his father, Vivian, 83, because the mid-Nineteen Seventies.

Vivian Cock

Vivian Cock © Western Waste

The farmers acquired a letter from Natural England in August, notifying them that the authorized course of to designate land inside Penwith Moors, Cornwall, as a SSSI below the Wildlife and Countryside Act, is because of begin this October. 

During this era, there will probably be a four-month public session and the farmers could have the chance to submit any formal representations.

No compensation

Stephen mentioned Natural England’s formal request to designate a part of his land as a SSSI got here after officers visited his farm “out of the blue” earlier this yr. 

“They are not planning to give us any financial compensation. There’s no subsidy – nothing,” he mentioned. “We are not huge farmers by any means. How are we supposed to make a living?”

Much of the land is Grade 4 arable on granite, rising crops for London markets, cauliflower, potatoes, broccoli, fodder beet and momentary silage for leys. 

Around 12ha is at the moment planted with daffodil bulbs, an vital crop that gives labour and income for the Cornish economic system.

Currently, Mr Cock accepts undesirable shell waste from West Country fishing companies, which he spreads on the land as a slow-release, pure fertiliser. He pays about £10,000 a yr for a licence to unfold the shells.

All this must cease if the land is made a SSSI.

Soils examined

The farmers say all crops and grassland is topic to strict nutrient guidelines according to the AHDB Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) and fields are soil examined by a FACTS certified adviser to keep away from oversupply of vitamins.

This is an extra safety to nitrate susceptible zone (NVZ) laws, which this parcel of land didn’t qualify for.

“If Natural England was so concerned about the conservation, this area would have been put in an NVZ a long time ago and the nitrates would be restricted and monitored,” Stephen mentioned.

He believes Natural England shouldn’t be allowed to take good arable land out of manufacturing, particularly contemplating the battle in Ukraine and pressures on world food provides.

“I’m baffledas to how on earth they can do something like this in this modern age and in a democratic society,” he mentioned.

Natural England says Penwith Moors SSSI is proposed to be round 3,150ha in extent and would have greater than 200 landowners and different occupiers.

‘We must act to protect areas of special interest’ – Natural England

Natural England advised Farmers it has an obligation below the Wildlife and Countryside Act to designate any space of land that, in its opinion, is of “special interest” for its wildlife (natural world), geology or landform.

The Penwith Moors has habitats that assist species of nationwide significance, together with a inhabitants of breeding Dartford warbler, an assemblage of invertebrates related to heathland vegetation, uncommon crops and an assemblage of lichens related to the granite tors that characterise Penwith’s iconic panorama.   

It is due to this fact essential that farming actions within the catchment don’t result in ranges of nitrogen loss into the groundwater, as this could have an effect on delicate wetland options.

Wesley Smyth, Natural England space supervisor, mentioned: “Penwith Moors is being proposed as a website of particular scientific curiosity (SSSI) given its nationwide significance for its heathland, wetland and grassland, which assist a spread of uncommon species.

“The safety of those particular websites will not be incompatible with viable farming companies and we recognise the very important function farmers play of their future administration.

“We also understand that any changes will create concerns for land managers. This is why there is a four-month period for anyone affected to make their views known before a final decision is taken. At Penwith Moors we will work closely with all land managers to identify how they can continue to farm while supporting the site’s special features for future generations.”

Natural England confirmed that monetary compensation won’t be obtainable for a SSSI standing being conferred and land doesn’t change possession.

However, landowners may gain advantage from getting into the land into the present Countryside Stewardship scheme or within the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme at the moment below improvement.