All posts by Mark

Conservation/Environmental Groups sound alarm over river & watercourse pollution & call for restoring of waters and wildlife

2 different Reports from 2 different coalitions of conservation & environmental charities and organisations have raised alarm about the shocking state in terms of ecological health of the UK’s rivers, streams, water-courses and freshwater marshes.
[Please Note: Only 14% of English rivers are meeting the criteria for “good” ecological status.]

Firstly, the Troubled Waters Report written by a coalition of environmental charities, including the RSPB, the National Trust and the Rivers Trust, concludes that rivers, streams, and freshwater marshes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are being devastated by diffuse agricultural pollution and sewage. The Report reveals that “fewer than half of Welsh rivers are of good ecological status, and 28 out of 45 monitored areas on the River Wye are failing to meet targets to control phosphorus levels caused by diffuse agricultural pollution. Nevertheless, planning approval continues to be given to intensive poultry farms, with an estimated 20 million chickens now being reared every year in the River Wye’s catchment.” (source: The Guardian). The report reveals how even wildlife-protected wetlands and rivers are threatened by pollution, while restoring water quality is hampered by a lack of effective monitoring and enforcement.

Secondly Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Blueprint for Water Coalition calls for urgent measures to help lift England’s rivers, lakes and streams from the bottom of the water quality league table, and warn that drastic action is needed to restore wildlife habitat, as outlined in their “Roadmap for restoring waters and wildlife”. Their recent Press-Release copied below

Blueprint for Water coalition
Blueprint for Water is a unique coalition of environmental, water efficiency, fisheries and recreational organisations, part of the wider environmental NGO coalition, Wildlife and Countryside Link.

Conservationists launch roadmap for restoring waters and wildlife

Blueprint for Water Press-Release
Published on: 14 September 2021

English waters among the least healthy in Europe, and climate change will make this worse,                says report

21 nature organisations are calling for urgent measures to help lift England’s rivers, lakes and streams from the bottom of the water quality league table, and warn that drastic action is needed to restore wildlife habitat.[1] Every freshwater body in England currently fails chemical standards and only 16% are classed in good ecological health compared to 53% on average in the EU. [2][3]

A new report launched today (Tues 14 Sept) by Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Blueprint for Water group, warns that climate change is worsening conditions for our already beleaguered waters. Increased water-use during droughts and damage caused by flooding, which are both becoming more frequent due to climate change, are compounding the existing problems of overuse and chemical, sewage and plastic pollution for our waters.

Ali Morse, Water Policy Manager at The Wildlife Trusts, and Chair of Blueprint for Water, said: “Nature and society are already paying the price for the over-use and pollution of our waters and wetlands – wildlife is struggling to survive, our rivers are not safe to swim and play in, and as customers we pay millions to clean up water so that it’s safe to drink. And that price is going to get even steeper as we feel the effects of climate change.

“We’re facing a hazardous future of water shortages, flood damage and the loss of iconic species like the water vole and Atlantic salmon in England. We should all be worried that none of our rivers, lakes or streams are in good health and we have among the worst water quality in Europe. It’s time for a new vision for English waters, with adequate investment, robust pollution prevention and sustainable water use.”

Tom Fewins from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) said: “The world faces a biodiversity crisis. In the UK alone, over half of freshwater and wetland species are declining with 13% at risk of extinction. Poor water quality is helping to fuel this and the UK is very likely to miss its targets to address this. We must urgently turn this situation around – and that should include looking to the ‘nature based solutions’ that wetlands provide. This includes their amazing ability to improve water quality by filtering out a wide range of pollutants, something WWT has found out over the many years we have been creating ‘treatment’ wetlands specifically for this purpose. With a biodiversity crisis upon us the Government must now adopt wetlands as a powerful weapon in the fight to restore our missing wildlife. This means putting together the partnerships, information, plans and funding in place to create and restore 100,000ha wetlands as part of a Blue Recovery.”

Tony Gent, CEO of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, said: “Our freshwater wildlife is declining with almost a third of British amphibians and reptiles seriously threatened. Healthy waters are vital to wildlife survival, community wellbeing and business success. Yet the health of our ponds, rivers, and wetlands are continually overlooked, under-protected and under-invested in. It’s vital that we reset the balance for our waters.”

Freshwater in England faces a huge number of threats and challenges. These include: flood and drought damage; overuse by agriculture, other industries and households; pollution from sewage, farm run-off, chemicals, pesticides, and plastics; and invasive species which clog our waterways and outcompete or prey on natural wildlife. All of this has led to a crisis for freshwater and wetland habitats of all shapes and sizes, and the wildlife that relies on them. [4]

There have been some positive recent moves on freshwater issues within Government. These include significant funding for multiple nature-based flood-prevention schemes and action on sewage pollution, with notable welcome amendments (spear-headed by Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP) made to the Environment Bill. But recent relaxations of the rules relating to storm overflows that could allow additional pollution from water companies and farmers are a concern.[5] And with raw sewage pouring into our rivers and seas for 3.1million hours last year, record numbers of flood warnings and drought-related low groundwater levels in recent years, and the failure of all English freshwater against chemical standards, radical action is needed to help turn our rivers crystal clear and clean.

The report published today will be launched at an event featuring water quality campaigners, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Philip Dunne MP, Shadow Natural Environment Minister Olivia Blake MP and Lord Chidgey. The report poses three main challenges for the Government:

• RESTORE water and wildlife through large-scale, strategic habitat restoration, protecting and enhancing wildlife hotspots such as our internationally valuable chalk streams.

• CLEAN-UP pollution with an effective and fully resourced monitoring and enforcement regime, driven by ambitious targets. This should include: stricter checks on chemical pollutants; stronger rules and penalties so that the ‘polluter pays’, support to help farmers reduce pesticide and agri-chemical reliance; new drainage measures to reduce sewage overflows; and greater investment of fines into habitat restoration.

• RE-THINK our relationship with water to build a sustainable system, delivering climate resilience, water security, and health and well-being benefits for our communities. This would include measures such as compulsory water-metering to reduce consumption, increased investment in nature-based solutions to help tackle climate change-related flood-risk, and increased local authority restoration of urban ‘blue spaces’ for public and nature benefits.


Notes to editors:

1. Supporting organisations include: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Angling Trust, British Canoeing, Buglife, Floodplain Meadows Partnership, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Friends of the Earth, Institute of Fisheries Management, Marine Conservation Society, National Trust, River Restoration Centre, The Rivers Trust, RSPB, Salmon and Trout Conservation, Surfers Against Sewage, Waterwise, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), The Wildlife Trusts, WWF, ZSL, and Wildlife and Countryside Link
2. Environment Agency figures on English freshwater quality are detailed here
3. 53% average rating for ecological health of EU freshwater bodies is detailed here (updated 2020) See ecological status charts here and groundwater chemical comparison here
4. River and wetland environments include estuaries, rivers, streams, headwaters, lakes, ponds, ditches, flushes, floodplains, peat bogs, wet woodlands, fens, wet heaths, wet grasslands and reedbeds.
5. The Environment Agency has relaxed some regulations which could see increased volumes of manure-spreading. Whilst farmers are supposed to ensure this does not reach freshwater, environmentalists are concerned farm-run-off from fields will lead to more pollution as a result. The Government has also relaxed sewage discharge rules due to an anticipated Brexit-related chemicals supply shortage, which could see more raw sewage reaching our rivers.

• The Government’s target in its 25 Year Environment Plan for 75% of waterbodies in England to be in good condition ‘as soon as possible’ (ahead of a 2027 target for all waters) appears highly likely to be missed, given that 0% currently meet the standard.
• Globally, freshwater species are declining more rapidly than any other wildlife, with large river fish down 94% and migratory freshwater fish down by 76% in the last 50 years.
• Our rare chalk streams, for which England holds 85% of the global total, are among the waterways hardest hit by agricultural, sewage and chemical pollution and overuse and drought.
• Small waterbodies are suffering too. Since the 1990s ponds in protected landscapes have lost 25% of their plants with huge reductions in other wildlife as a result. The top 10% of ponds now support 70% of all pondlife.
• Just 7 invasive plants, including floating pennywort and water primrose cost more than £21m to manage in British waterways annually.
The UK has among the highest levels of household water consumption in Europe, using on average 150 litres of water per person each day for drinking, showering, cooking etc.

Solent Nitrates Judicial Review – significant implications for housebuilding in areas with ecological sites

Court Ruling upheld that in areas where nutrient deposition is harming ecological sites, development may nevertheless proceed as long as it can demonstrate that it will not make the environmental harm any worse.


How a court ruling promises a legally safe method for mitigating water pollution from housebuilding
by Ben Kochan
Date: 10/06/2021

A High Court judgment endorsing a government agency’s advice that seeks to ensure that new housing schemes in sensitive environmental areas in south Hampshire are nitrate-neutral may help boost development in the area and is likely to have wider implications for other places where the impact of pollution on protected sites is a concern, say commentators.

In a judgment issued at the end of May, the High Court has backed advice issued by government conservation advisor Natural England on how councils in the Solent area can mitigate the harmful impacts of new homes on nitrate levels. The case involved a challenge by campaigners to a December 2019 permission by Fareham Borough Council for an eight-home scheme. It focussed on Natural England advice on nitrogen pollution in the Solent area that was used to justify the granting of permission. The ruling dismissed the challenge, and upheld the council’s housing permission.

Natural England’s initial advice, issued about two years ago to 12 local authorities in south Hampshire, stated that all new residential development within the Solent area must be “nitrogen-neutral” to comply with the Habitats Regulations and to prevent further harm to the ecologically important protected marine sites on the Solent coastline. The Habitats Regulations derive from the EU Habitats Directive and require applicants to carry out habitats assessments for development that may have harmful impacts on protected sites.

In response to the advice, some of the authorities affected stopped issuing planning permissions for new housing development that could increase nitrate levels in the rivers flowing into the Solent, while they worked on a solution that would comply with the Habitat Regulations. However, this resulted in a huge backlog of residential permissions, with consents for more than 10,000 homes put on hold, causing frustration for developers operating in the area.

In the High Court ruling, Mr Justice Jay endorsed Natural England’s approach. He disagreed with the campaigners’ arguments that the Habitats Regulations required developments not merely to offset the impact of excessive nitrates, but to improve the deteriorating condition of the protected sites. The judge pointed out that “the concept of neutrality indicates that the ambition of the [Natural England] Advice Note is limited to not making things worse“. He said that “the Habitats Directive requires member states (and now the UK through a different legal pathway) to take appropriate measures to avoid any deterioration“.

The judge also refuted criticism by the campaigners of Natural England’s use of the so-called “precautionary principle” in its advice. The campaigners argued that it was based on guesswork, rather than scientific certainty, and meant that schemes could be approved when decision-makers were uncertain about their pollution impact. Mr Justice Jay concluded that in this regard, the advice was “impeccable”, adding: “We are in the realm of the empirical sciences where uncertainty is inevitable. It is in order to meet this unavoidable uncertainty that the precautionary principle has been devised.”

However, the judge said he shared the campaigners’ concerns about the advice note’s suggestion that the average national occupancy rate of 2.4 persons per household should be used in calculating the nitrogen discharge from new housing that needs to be mitigated. The ruling called for this piece of advice to be reviewed. “If Natural England’s belief is that bespoke levels should be reserved for atypical cases, the advice note should say so and provide a brief explanation,” the judge said.

Tim Mould QC, of Landmark Chambers, who represented Fareham Borough Council, said that if the legal challenge had been successful, the councils and Natural England “would have had to reinstate the block on planning approvals for new housing proposals that could increase the discharge of nitrates into the Solent“. He said the judge had “meticulously gone through all the elements of Natural England’s advice” and – other than the issues around the calculation of the potential discharge – “did not find fault with it”.

In a statement responding to the ruling, Natural England said: “Nutrient neutrality is a concept that had not been tested in the courts until these judgments.” The agency said it was “grateful to the court for the detailed consideration and acceptance of nutrient neutrality and its advice”.

During the court hearing, Natural England said it was preparing a national version of the advice. A number of other parts of the country with protected waterways have in the past year or so found themselves in equivalent situations to south Hampshire, after receiving similar advice on mitigating the impact of new homes on nitrate levels from the government agency. In its statement, Natural England said it was “reviewing its evidence on the condition of protected sites across England”. It added: “We will be engaging with local planning authorities through July to raise awareness and understanding of the approach.”

The judgment is relevant to other councils with protected water sites that are also subject to similar [Natural England] advice on nitrates and other nutrients including phosphates,” said Christian Silk, a director at law firm Foot Anstey. “Consents for around 25,000 homes in Herefordshire, Kent, Cornwall and Somerset are being held up because of a requirement that they are phosphates and nitrates neutral,” he said. Following the launch of the Solent legal challenge, he said developers had been holding off bringing forward schemes with mitigation measures, but were “now reassured” by the judgment.

The judgment provides some helpful clarification for local authorities on important points relating to the application of the Habitats Regulations,” said Mike Kiely, chair of the Planning Officers Society, which represents public sector planners. “The judge confirms that responsibility for addressing harm to the natural environment does not lie with new housing proposals. This is helpful not just to those authorities trying to deal with the nitrates issue, but also for others who are seeking to address challenges created by other sources of pollution.”

Since the original advice was issued, Natural England and the local authorities in the Partnership for South Hampshire (PSH) group have developed a methodology to mitigate the impact of new housing proposals on nitrate discharge into the Solent. This is now encapsulated in revised and more detailed advice from Natural England.

Developers can set aside part of their site as a mitigation area or purchase a credit on a site which is taken out of intense agricultural use to offset the impact of their housing development,” said Sean Woodward, the partnership’s chair. “Planning applications for around 4,300 homes are still on hold across the PSH authorities. The judgment will give the local authorities confidence that any permissions now granted, where appropriate mitigation measures are agreed, will stand up to legal challenge.”

As part of this approach, Natural England and DEFRA have been developing an online nutrient trading platform to help developers purchase the aforementioned credits from landowners. “Landowners in the Solent area have been coming forward with sites that could be set aside for mitigation,” said Grace Mitchell, an associate in the planning team at law firm Shoosmiths. “We have been negotiating credits with developers on those sites. The mitigation sites have to be set aside in perpetuity.

Peter Home, an associate at planning consultancy Turley, which has been working with housebuilders on schemes in the Solent, said the judgment will give them confidence to take their schemes forward. “Land that could be taken out of intensive agricultural use to mitigate the impact on the particular river catchment is needed in the right locations,” he said. “There’s a good supply in the east Solent area but not so much in the west.

David Hayward, planning policy manager at Havant Borough Council, said that “developments in some parts of south Hampshire required higher levels of mitigation because of the level of nitrates discharge from the waste water treatment works.”

Referring to the judge’s concerns about the advice note’s suggested occupancy rate, Simon Kennedy, strategic environmental planning officer at PSH, said the Solent authorities were “customising the mitigation requirement” to different kinds of development. “Clearly a hotel development produces a different level of nitrogen discharge to a large housing scheme,” he pointed out.

New Planning Bill an ‘utter disaster’, say countryside campaigners

Source: The Guardian. Guardian article, entitled “Johnson’s planning laws an ‘utter disaster’, say countryside campaigners

Critics say bill unveiled in Queen’s speech to spur housebuilding will bring ‘dark age of development’
Ministers are expected to enact a radical shift by zoning land either for growth or protection.

Johnson’s planning laws an ‘utter disaster’, say countryside campaigners
by Robert Booth, The Guardian
Tue 11 May 2021

A dramatic loosening of planning laws to create a housebuilding boom will damage local democracy and destroy swathes of countryside by granting property developers a freer hand to build over green fields, planning experts have warned.

The new laws, part of the government’s “Project Speed” to accelerate infrastructure projects, are intended to increase the number of homes being planned by more than a third, and were announced in the Queen’s speech. But critics described them as “an utter disaster” which would return the country to “a deregulated dark age of development”.

Ministers are expected to enact a radical shift in the way decisions are made on new developments by zoning land either for growth, where developers will be allowed to build homes and related infrastructure such as schools and hospitals without individual planning consents, or protection where development will be restricted.

It wants to boost home ownership in areas of increasing Conservative support in northern England and the Midlands and will use post-Brexit freedoms to “simplify … environmental assessments for developments”.

It said there will be stronger rules on design – but countryside campaigners warned the changes would lead to the “suburbanisation” of the countryside and “rural sprawl” without delivering much-needed affordable housing.

The councils body the Local Government Information Unit said the changes would “leave local government with the political liability on planning whilst depriving them … of the powers to manage it effectively”.

The Queen’s speech did not include a bill to improve regulation of social housing despite a government white paper last year. Grenfell United, which represents the bereaved and survivors of the 2017 council block disaster, said it was “deeply let down” at the failure to “redress the balance of power between social housing tenants and landlords”.

Plans to reform leaseholds went as far as a new bill so leaseholders of new, long residential leases cannot be charged a financial ground rent for no tangible service. But there was no plan for helping current leaseholders pay up to £10bn in fire safety costs from faults discovered after Grenfell.

Announcing a planning bill that is expected to be the most radical since the 1948 Town and Country Planning Act, the government promised “simpler, faster procedures for producing local development plans, approving major schemes, assessing environmental impacts and negotiating affordable housing and infrastructure contributions”.

But Fiona Howie, the chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said: “It is disappointing that the government’s narrative has focused, once again, solely on housing numbers. If we are truly committed to building back better, we need the built environment to support communities to thrive.”

She also said the bill must “ensure planning radically reduces our carbon emissions”, describing the legislation as the “last chance”.

The moves were described as an “utter disaster” by the Lancashire, Liverpool city region and Greater Manchester branch of the CPRE charity, which lobbies to protect the countryside.

“We will see a lot more houses on greenfield land and in areas of outstanding natural beauty,” said Debra McConnell, the chair of the branch. “The people in the north of England need these green spaces for their wellbeing.”

The CPRE also warned the bill, which will largely apply only in England, ran counter to the proposed environmental bill and would “take us back to a deregulated dark age of development”. It fears most of the new homes are unlikely to be low-cost or affordable.

Is Bill Gates TOO Powerful? asks Russell Brand

Russell Brand on YouTube
MUST-WATCH-VLOG – subject: “The Great Reset: Is Bill Gates TOO Powerful?”

A presentation/discussion by Russell Brand on the subject of the extent of the global asset ownership of Bill Gates – the 4th richest man in the world – in relation to the Global Food System. Brand gets his information from an article by Robert F Kennedy, Jr ‘Bill Gates & Neofeudalism: A closer look at Farmer Bill’. The extent of the global asset ownership of Bill Gates and the extent of power Gates now wields across numerous interconnected facets of what comprises the global food system is staggering. For instance, Gates owns 242,000 acres of farmland across the USA, holds in his grasp increasing concentrations of asset ownership across interconnecting sectors that comprise the structural make-up of the global food system such as large commanding shares in several of the largest food multinationals (Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, Kraft, General Foods) and chemical (& seed) companies such as Bayer and Monsanto plus investments in seeds companies including seed patents and GMO crops. His asset ownership and influence extends to further interconnecting interests such as aid-projects sponsored by the Gates Foundation – influencing development policies in the South, investments in AI technologies through front-companies such as Digital Green promoting new Green Revolution schemes (propagating the continuation of the predominant convention grounded in intensive agricultural practice, long exposed to cogent critique by the inadequacy of it’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ methodology) utilising cell-phone technologies, and commanding influence within media outlets such as those in big-tech (commanding stakes in Google, Facebook, Apple & Amazon).

Brand tries to unravel the subject, identifying actual consequences of some of the work Gates has been doing (such as poverty increases in Africa after the pursuance of Gates-funded aid-projects to boost agricultural productivity) and stopping just-short of speculating on Gates’ overall agenda. Ref:

See also:



  • Building a network of food coops, buying groups & other community food enterprises:
  • “Ourfield” – a cooperative co-farming/crop share investment collective grains movement:
  • Sustainable Land-Based Solutions (south of England):
  • PM Johnson urged to extend Right-to-Roam

    Johnson urged to extend public’s right to roam over English countryside
    Letter signed by 100 people including Stephen Fry and Ali Smith points out freedom to roam only extends to 8% of country

    by Matthew Taylor, The Guardian
    Mon 30 Nov 2020

    More than 100 authors, musicians, actors and artists have written to Boris Johnson urging him to extend the public’s right to roam over the English countryside.

    The letter, signed by leading figures from Stephen Fry to Jarvis Cocker, Sir Mark Rylance to Ali Smith, calls on the prime minister to give people greater access to nature to improve the public’s physical and mental health.

    “In the books we write, the songs we sing, the art that we make, we celebrate the essential connection that we feel with nature,” the letter states. “Our love for nature resonates with our millions of fans and followers, but in England, it is actively discouraged by the law. This is not only unfair; it is also untenable.”

    The authors point out that in England the public has “freedom to roam” over only 8% of the country, while “only 3% of rivers in England and Wales are legally accessible to kayakers, paddle-boarders and wild swimmers”.

    They are calling on Johnson to go further by extending right to roam to cover woodlands, rivers and green belt land.

    “Lockdown has demonstrated how vital it is for us to have access to green outdoor space, both for our physical and our mental health,” the signatories write. “There is now a body of scientific evidence showing just how essential nature is for our wellbeing.”

    The intervention comes on the 20th anniversary of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act, which created a partial right to roam in England and Wales. The letter was organised by the right to roam campaign, set up earlier this year by the authors Nick Hayes and Guy Shrubsole.

    Shrubsole said: “Extending right to roam would be a bold and far-reaching act by this government, and its effects would resonate for generations to come. Now, more than ever, the time is ripe to give people the freedom to reconnect with nature, for the sake of public health.”

    ‘Biggest farming shake-up in 50 years’

    £1.6bn subsidies for owning land in England to end, with funds going to improve nature

    by Damian Carrington, Environment editor, The Guardian
    Mon 30 Nov 2020

    Wildlife, nature and the climate will benefit from the biggest shake-up in farming policy in England for 50 years, according to government plans.

    The £1.6bn subsidy farmers receive every year for simply owning land will be phased out by 2028, with the funds used instead to pay them to restore wild habitats, create new woodlands, boost soils and cut pesticide use.

    The wealthiest landowners – those receiving annual payments over £150,000 a year – will face the sharpest cuts, starting with 25% in 2021. Those receiving under £30,000 will see a 5% cut next year.

    Some of the biggest recipients of the existing scheme have been the Duke of Westminster, the inventor Sir James Dyson, racehorse owner Prince Khalid bin Abdullah al Saud and the Queen.

    Farmers will also get grants to improve productivity and animal welfare, including new robotic equipment. The goal of the plan is that farmers will – within seven years – be producing healthy and profitable food in a sustainable way and without subsidies.

    The environment secretary, George Eustice, acknowledged the damage done to the environment by industrial farming since the 1960s and said the new plans would deliver for nature and help fight the climate crisis. Farming occupies 70% of England, is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss and produces significant greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

    The radical changes in agricultural policy are possible due to the UK leaving the EU, whose common agricultural policy is widely regarded as a disaster for nature and even critics of Brexit see the changes as positive.

    Farming and environment groups largely welcomed the plans but said more detail was urgently required. Brexit is looming at the end of December and uncertainties remain over food tariffs and trade deals. Many groups are also concerned about the potential import of food produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards.

    “[This is] the biggest change in agricultural policy in half a century,” said Eustice. “It makes no sense to subsidise land ownership and tenure where the largest subsidy payments often go to the wealthiest landowners.

    “Over the last century, much of our wildlife-rich habitat has been lost, and many species are in long-term decline.

    “I know many farmers feel this loss keenly and are taking measures to reverse this decline. But we cannot deny that the intensification of agriculture since the 1960s has taken its toll. Our plans for future farming must [also] tackle climate change – one of the most urgent challenges facing the world.”

    The total of £2.4bn a year currently paid to farmers will remain the same until 2025, as promised in the Conservative manifesto. Currently, two-thirds of this is paid solely for owning land, but the proportion will fall to one-third by 2025 and zero by 2028. Funds for environmental action will rise from a quarter of the total to more than half by 2025, with the remaining funds used to increase productivity.

    The new green payments will be trialled with 5,000 farmers before a full launch in 2024. But the level of payments for work such as natural flood defences and restoring peatlands and saltmarshes has not yet been set. Nor has the likely cut in carbon emissions been quantified.

    The president of the National Farmers’ Union, Minette Batters, said: “Farming is changing and we look forward to working with ministers and officials to co-create the new schemes.”

    But she added: “Expecting farmers to run viable, high-cost farm businesses, continue to produce food and increase their environmental delivery, while phasing out existing support and without a complete replacement scheme for almost three years is high risk and a very big ask.”

    The cuts are expected to reduce the income of livestock farmers, for example, by 60% to 80% by 2024, Batters said.

    Kate Norgrove, of the WWF, said: “Our farmers have the potential to be frontline heroes in the climate and nature emergency, and this roadmap starts us on the right path. It must see increased investment in nature as a way to tackle climate change.”

    Tom Lancaster, principal policy officer for agriculture at the RSPB, said: “This is a make or break moment for the government’s farming reforms, which are so important to both the future of farming and recovery of nature in England. [This plan] provides some welcome clarity, but faster progress is now needed over the coming months.”

    But Craig Bennett, CEO of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “We are deeply worried that the pilot [environment] schemes simply cannot deliver the promise that nature will be in a better state. Four years on from the EU referendum, we still lack the detail and clarity on how farm funding will benefit the public.”

    Other measures in the government plan include funding improvements in how farmers manage animal manure – slurry is a major polluter of both water and air – and a scheme where farmers seeking to leave the sector can cash out all the subsidies payments they are due up to 2028 in 2022, part of efforts to help new farmers enter the sector.

    The government said it would be cutting “red tape” for farmers, with warning letters replacing automatic fines for minor issues and more targeted – though not fewer – inspections.

    In July, the government said rules about growing diverse crops, fallow land and hedges would be abolished in 2021, claiming they had little environmental benefit. Farming policy is a devolved matter and other UK nations have yet to bring forward firm new plans.

    Government set to pass new ‘hostile’ anti-Traveller laws this autumn

    Taken from the Traveller Times
    Date: 22 July 2020

    The Travellers’ Times can reveal that lawyers and campaigners are ready to act after the government recently announced that new ‘hostile’ anti-Traveller laws, which could include the criminalisation of trespass, will be delivered this autumn.

    The laws are set to follow the Government’s consultation on unauthorised camps and sites late last year and the Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election manifesto promise to criminalise trespass.

    Traveller law experts are already set to challenge any new laws in court, say lawyers.

    “At the time the consultation was in progress we made it clear why we felt that the Government’s proposals were discriminatory and unlawful,” a senior lawyer from Community Law Partnership told the Travellers’ Times.

    “If the Government bring in these proposals, then we are already instructed to take forward court challenges.”

    Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel told MP’s that new laws based on the 2019 government consultation on unauthorised Traveller camps and sites would be brought forward in autumn.

    Earlier this month, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, told MP’s that the Government intended to deliver on its election promise to make trespass a criminal offence.

    The consultation on unauthorised camps and sites was announced on November 5th, three days after the general election was called, prompting many Gypsy, Traveller and Roma campaigners to complain that the Government were using them as a political football to win votes.

    In the consultation the Government threatened to:

    • Make trespass a crime – resulting in prison, a fine or your vehicle being taken from you.
    • Make it a crime for you to stop alongside or on the road – they will be able to move you along.
    • Make it so police can act when there is two vehicles, instead of six. A car, a trailer and a van would count as three vehicles. A horse drawn wagon would also count as a vehicle, say lawyers.
    • Make it so police can force you to go to a transit site in another county.
    • Make it so you are banned from an area for one year instead of three months.

    The Conservative 2019 election manifesto promised to:

    • Tackle unauthorised traveller camps.
    • Give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities.
    • Make intentional trespass a criminal offence and also give councils greater powers within the planning system.

    The Conservative Party won a thumping 80 seat victory in the November 2019 election, meaning that there is very little opposition parties can do to stop the Government making new laws.

    However, The Scottish Government will not be bringing in any new laws that make life harder for Travellers’ – as revealed in the Travellers’ Times last year.

    Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers, told the Travellers’ Times that the prospect of yet more ‘hostile’ anti-Traveller laws was worrying.

    “At a time where we are seeing discussions of race inequality ignited, we are faced with hostile Government proposals to criminalise Gypsies and Travellers,” said Abbie Kirkby.

    “Over the years there have been countless reports and evidence highlighting how Gypsies and Travellers face some of the most severe inequalities but what do we see? – The prospect of more draconian powers to penalise families because they live in different kinds of homes and have a nomadic way of life.

    What’s so baffling about this is that there are some very simple solutions available that are workable for all communities,” added Abbie Kirkby.

    At the time of the Government’s 2019 consultation, Friends Families and Travellers organised a campaign that generated 10,000 responses – all of them against the new threatened laws.

    “We were overwhelmed to see so many allies submit their views into the Home Office consultation so for Government Ministers to be talking about the proposals as a done deal is worrying to say the least,” said Abbie Kirkby.

    “We will be seeking legal advice as soon as the Government publish their response to the consultation, to ensure the views of the community and allies have been given full consideration as part of the consultation process.”

    The UK’s Gypsies and Travellers have a cultural heritage of travelling, and many families still travel to look for work, go to fairs, visit relatives, and attend funerals and weddings. Many Travellers also travel and set up unauthorised camps because they prefer to do so or because they have nowhere else to go.

    The fight against the new laws that could effectively smash all nomadic ways of life could unite all Traveller groups, say campaigners.

    The threatened new laws are also raising concerns among New Traveller and Van Dweller groups.

    Critics also say that the criminalisation of trespass and the other threatened laws could also criminalise homeless camps and protest camps and is an attack on the civil liberties of everyone – not just Gypsies and Travellers.

    Writing in the Guardian, campaign journalist George Monbiot said that the new proposed laws were a trap and could affect everyone – not just Gypsies and Travellers:

    “The harder you look, the more disguised powers appear to be lodged in this consultation. Even if new trespass laws are aimed only at those residing on land, they will affect not only Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, but also rough sleepers.

    Any new laws are also likely to be used against protesters. We’ve seen how previous legislation – such as the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act, the 2000 Terrorism Act and the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act – has been immediately deployed against peaceful protest, in some cases after the government promised that it would not be used for this purpose.”


    Forgive us our trespasses: forbidden rambles with right-to-roam campaigner Nick Hayes [Observer article]

    Forgive us our trespasses: forbidden rambles with a right-to-roam campaigner

    The law excludes ordinary people from 92% of English land, but that doesn’t stop activist, artist and writer Nick Hayes

    by Rachel Cooke, The Observer, 9/8/2020

    As Simon Jenkins notes in his book England’s Thousand Best Houses, were it not for the fact that it sits in 400 acres of historic parkland, Basildon Park house in west Berkshire might almost be a Piccadilly terrace: big, but not gargantuan; elegant and harmonious, but too straightforward to be entirely flashy. Glimpsed through trees on a warm summer evening, its magnificent portico crested by golden sunlight, it rises like a beacon, a sight from which it’s hard to tear the eyes. Even when I’m walking away from it, I keep turning my head to check that I didn’t only imagine it; that it hasn’t suddenly vanished into thin air.

    But bewitchment is in the air tonight. This place is ours. Though the National Trust reopened these grounds to visitors in June, those who booked tickets for today are long gone now, it being past five o’clock. Circumnavigating the estate’s flinty, tumbledown perimeter wall, we barely saw a soul – only one mountain biker, doggedly following the same bridleway as us – and since we slipped inside the park itself, having finally found a gap just wide enough to allow us to do so, we’ve encountered no one at all. We stride, willy nilly, utterly free, grasshoppers leaping at our feet, the soft wind in the branches above us. What leafy seclusion. It’s so enveloping, and so soothing, I jump halfway out of my skin when a pheasant shrieks in the undergrowth.

    There are bylaws around respecting National Trust land but I do not feel deep down that I’m doing much wrong by being here. What harm is there in enjoying such loveliness? I’m a paid up member of the Trust, so this is no embezzlement. Nevertheless, I don’t suppose I would have wriggled through that tempting space had I been alone. I see walls, literal and metaphorical, and often wonder what’s to be found behind them, but I’m too timid, often, to climb them. On this occasion, however, I have courage in the form of company. I’ve been led astray by Nick Hayes, the author of The Book of Trespass, a powerful new narrative about the vexed issue of land rights and a volume that he hopes will both refocus the ongoing campaign to reform the 2000 Countryside and Rights of Way Act by encouraging more people to do as we are doing right now, to walk on privately owned land, and to help build protest against the Conservative party’s plan – a manifesto commitment – to make trespass a criminal offence. Not only is Hayes practically a professional trespasser these days, no sign too forbidding to be ignored, no fence too high to be climbed. In my case, he’s like a naughty younger brother, egging me on, urging me blithely to step over whatever impediment happens to be in my way. “They can’t do anything to us,” he says, cheerfully. “They can ask us to leave, but we can’t be prosecuted. Trespass is a mechanism for seeking redress for damage, and it would be absurd to suggest we are damaging anything.” (Trespass can be actionable through the courts, whether or not the claimant has suffered damage – but such cases are rare, and usually only brought to deter persistent trespassing, or where there are boundary disputes.)

    This is the part of Berkshire, not far from the River Thames in Pangbourne, that inspired Kenneth Grahame to write The Wind in the Willows, and Hayes, who likes to kayak, knows it intimately. He grew up a few minutes away, in the village of Upper Basildon, and it was there, 10 years ago, that the seeds of his book were sown, when he came home from London to live with his parents while he worked on his first graphic novel (he makes his living mainly as an illustrator). One day, he and his mother were walking together after lunch. They were, he says, having the kind of heart-to-heart that could only really happen in “the easy chaos of the countryside”, wandering towards a spot that, at the time, was the sole place he’d ever seen a kingfisher. But they never made it. Suddenly, a quad bike came chugging over the paddock, and parked itself, just a little too close for comfort, in their way.

    The gambit of the landowner or his agent to the trespasser is often a facetious “are you lost?” But this guy was more direct. “You’ve no right to be here,” he said. “You are trespassing.” Hayes and his mother reflexively apologised and promptly left. Only later did he consider the astonishing effect just a few words had had on them; it was as if they were two puppets, and this stranger had simply yanked their strings. “We were doing such a lovely thing,” he says. “So to be interrupted in such a gruff manner… This invisible force came over us. Outwardly, it was just decency [on our part]. It would have been indecent for us to argue; that would have spoilt our day. But his ability to turn us on our heels through 180 degrees felt like power to me, and it’s quite rare for a white, straight, middle-class man [like me] to feel the operation of power like that. There was this feeling of shame – as though I’d done something wrong. And that didn’t square at all with my inner morality.”

    After this, Hayes began strolling on private land more and more often. This wasn’t, he insists, a political act, or even just a two-fingers to those types who like to border the land they own with signs that read “Keep out”. “It was more a case of wanting to support my feeling intellectually that it’s the wall that is the crime, not the climbing of it,” he says. “I wasn’t going to stop trespassing, but I also came to realise that it’s all right for me. This is something I can do. I’ve got quite a posh voice, I’m white, I’m a big enough dude not to be physically submissive; I don’t flinch when someone comes at me. The book grew not only out of my own trespassing, but out of a desire to try and make the countryside more available to people without my privileges.” England, he would go on to discover, is still owned by a relatively small number of wealthy individuals and institutions: by the law of trespass, we are excluded from 92% of the land and 97% of its waterways. How can this be? The feeling grew in him that change must and can come. When The Book of Trespass is published later this month, he and Guy Shrubsole, the activist author of Who Owns England? (which came out last year), will together launch a new campaign, the primary focus of which will be the fact that the nation’s mental and physical health would be improved immeasurably by increased access to it. “I don’t believe property is theft,” Hayes says. “That’s a ridiculous proposition, one that ignores human nature. This isn’t the politics of envy. All we’re asking is that the lines between us and the land are made more permeable.”

    This doesn’t mean, however, that political history is of no interest to him. Quite the contrary. For Hayes, Basildon Park house serves as one symbol among many of the way, down the centuries, land was effectively stolen from the people, its grand estates constructed on the back of their exploitation. Built in 1776 by John Carr of York, it was designed for Francis Sykes, a wealthy member of the East India Company, who returned home with fingers that were, as Hayes puts it, “sticky from the colonial cookie jar” (Sykes himself explained the bleeding dry of India as a basic choice of “whether it [the wealth extracted under British rule] should go into a black man’s pocket or my own”).. Hayes doesn’t disapprove of the National Trust; he’s largely supportive of both it and English Heritage. But he wonders why, given the history of Basildon Park, some of its 400 acres could not be given over to, say, local allotment holders. And what about those who cannot afford its ticket prices? “I think the vision of Octavia Hill [the social reformer, and one of the three founders of the National Trust] for the working classes has gone a bit wayward. It does seem very white and middle class. It holds some of our cultural soul, and it could change the narrative if it tried.”

    We walk on. The preternatural quietness holds. The atmosphere is almost muffled. The cows, it seems, can’t be bothered to low at this hour, in this heat. But just as we’re on our way back to our entry point, we meet a woman on the path. She has long, silver hair and a black spaniel, and a manner that, though polite, expresses a certain dismay at our presence. Do we work for the National Trust? No. Then why are we here? We tell her that we’re merely enjoying the park, and then we turn the tables, asking her a few questions of our own – which is how we find out that she is the wife of a National Trust warden, and that she lives in a house in the woods. Also, that she is Dutch. Do people have the right to roam in Holland? No, she says. It’s worse there than here.

    But she won’t be put off so easily. We should go. Soon, this spot will be dangerous for us. In half an hour, hunters are coming to shoot deer, which must be controlled. “Well, they’re not going to shoot us, are they?” says Hayes, breaking into laughter. She doesn’t fully smile at this – though whether this is because we outnumber her and she feels vaguely intimidated, or whether because she simply believes we’re being foolhardy, I can’t quite tell. Either way, though, I’m momentarily chastened: I experience what Hayes calls, in his book, a “mind wall” – an invisible barrier rises, over which I feel I must now hop as quickly as possible to the side where I rightfully belong.

    My fellow trespasser and I do most of our talking in a hay field belonging to someone known to him as Farmer Ambler, a man who eventually appears, carrying long stems of ragwort (ragwort is toxic if eaten by cows), but who speaks to us gently, and doesn’t tell us to scram.

    Hayes wasn’t what you might call a child of nature. “We came up to the rec to smoke hash as teenagers,” he says. “Sometimes, a couple of woods on from where we’re sitting now, we made fires and messed around. But we weren’t there for nature; it was just free space.” After public school and Cambridge University, he did an art foundation course and eventually, after a series of jobs working in communications for charities, he began working full time on his first graphic novel, The Rime of the Modern Mariner, a take on Coleridge’s famous poem. He has since published three more.

    The Book of Trespass is his first non-graphic book – though the text is punctuated by his marvellous illustrations, linocuts that bring to mind the Erics, Gill and Ravilious – and in it, he weaves several centuries of English history together with the stories of gypsies, witches, ramblers, migrants and campaigners, as well as his own adventures. Its sweep is vast. Among the places he trespasses, sometimes camping out overnight, are Highclere Castle in Hampshire, home of the Earl of Carnarvon and now best known as the real Downton Abbey; Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, the seat of the dukes of Rutland; on the Sussex estate of Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail; and on land, also in Sussex, owned by the property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten. He also kayaks on the River Kennet from Aldermaston, in west Berkshire, to the point near Reading where it meets the Thames – a journey that takes him through the estate owned by Richard Benyon who, until 2019, was the richest MP in Parliament (Benyon lives in Englefield House, which dates from 1558, and which passed to his family by marriage in the 18th century; some of their money was made via the East India Company, too).

    His book begins with the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932, an act of civil disobedience that may be one of the most successful in British history (it led to the creation of our national parks). But then he tracks back: here is William the Conqueror, seizing England with “both his hands”; here are the Tudor barons, frantically enclosing common land in what amounted to a kind of rural gold rush; and here, much later, is the Public Order Act of 1994, a piece of legislation, triggered by a rave at Castlemorton Common in Worcestershire, that Hayes regards as “the final nail in the coffin” for freedom in the countryside, and that has a great deal in common with vagrancy acts of earlier centuries in the way that it targets particular groups of people, notably Travellers. Along the way, he also explores more nebulous territory. Why, he wonders, do we quietly accept the limits to our freedom – the signs and the barbed wire, the CCTV cameras and the walls – when we’re out and about? Where does such obedience come from? Nationalism, he believes, suits the landowning classes – Paul Dacre, who also owns a 17,000 acre grouse farm near Ullapool in Scotland, now among them – because it gives people a sense of ownership without their actually owning anything at all.

    Source: The Guardian (The article is reproduced in full here)

    Our green and pleasant land. Except it isn’t – ours, I mean. A third of Britain is still owned by the aristocracy; 24 non-royal dukes alone own almost 4m acres of it (in 2016, 17 of these men together received farm subsidies worth £8.4m). Then there is the new aristocracy, the self-made millionaires who can afford to buy up the land: men like Richard Bannister, the retail tycoon who bought Walshaw Moor in Calderdale in 2002, and whose “management” of this rare habitat brought him into conflict with Natural England – until, that is, the agency dropped its claim, settling out of court (Bannister now owns some 16,000 acres of the valley). Finally, there are the offshore companies, which in 2015 owned 490,000 acres of England and Wales, meaning that an area larger than Greater London can legally avoid stamp duty and inheritance tax (the largest swathe of English land registered to offshore companies is the Gunnerside estate, whose 27,258 acres of North Yorkshire moorland are registered in the British Virgin Islands and which, over the last decade or so, received some €430,000 of taxpayer handouts in the form of agricultural subsidies). According to Hayes, there are “good landowners”: he would single out the Crown Estate and Sir Julian Rose, the owner of Hardwick House, also in Berkshire, whose farm is run on ecological principles and who allows a nonprofit group to run outdoor activities for children with disabilities on his land. But these people are, in his view, in the minority.

    Was he, as he researched The Book of Trespass, surprised by the numbers? “No. In a way, I was almost encouraged by them. They’re so stark, they do the arguing for you. The orthodoxy is that land campaigners are very unreasonable – that they’re people who want to overturn civil society, who have this mad communist desire to overrule people’s private sanctity. But if you look at the figures, it’s clear that it’s not at all unreasonable for us to require greater access to the land.” He’s surely right about this – and in Scotland, people already have the right to roam; none of the walks in his book would count as trespass north of the border. But it also raises the question: why does it still matter so much to landowners if people cross their land? Why does it make some of them so furious?

    “Because, under a certain philosophy of property, one we’ve had since the time of William the Conqueror, something is only yours if you own it exclusively; a park doesn’t really belong to you if you can’t throw someone out of it. Counter to this, of course, there is another philosophy, one that says that you don’t leave this world with anything in your pockets, and you don’t come into it with anything in them, either. At best, you borrow the land from your children; you’re a custodian. Unfortunately, these are entirely opposing definitions of property.” Chewing idly on some grass, I wonder aloud why some people need so much. Hayes looks at me as though I’m slightly stupid. “It’s not about use,” he says. “The rich man wants more. You know that.”

    There are, he tells me, groups out there who are interested in the idea of reparation; who believe that if more people knew the stories behind places like Basildon Park, they would be more exercised over the issue of land rights. But he would rather concentrate, in campaigning terms, on the future rather than the past. “If I had two minutes on the Today programme, I would talk about the science involved in the relationship between nature and mental and physical wellbeing, and about a future where landowners aren’t robbed of anything at all, except the right to exclude the mass public. Douglas Caffyn [a canoe campaigner] speaks about the Magna Carta when he makes the case for access to our rivers. But we can either argue about historical precedent, or we can clear the table of that, and discuss why, say, rivers are so essential to people.”

    He is not – again, he tells me – looking for a revolution. “The one thing I think is a genuine and valid concern [on the part of landowners] is vandalism and litter. But this is why we need an early and visceral relationship with nature. Children need to learn about dragonflies by having them land on their noses so that as adults they will find it abhorrent to see a Wispa Gold wrapper next to an orchid.” He and his fellow campaigners are looking to “rewrite” the Countryside Code. “It asks too little,” he says. “It shouldn’t only tell you to take your litter home; it should tell you to pick up any litter that you find. We would like it to be more moral, to incorporate how we should be together – because the way we treat nature is the way that we treat each other.”

    So what happens next? “We want to engage all the people who are already sold on access – the fathers and mothers, the ramblers, climbers and kayakers – and tell them that something is happening, and get them to join us. Then we need to persuade all the people who don’t have much access to land why their lives would be improved if they did. And then, we need to lobby MPs.” His book, he believes, is the beginning of something, not the end. “We will say to people: come trespassing with us!” He grins. “Our hashtag will be #extremelynonviolentdirectaction. There’ll be animal masks and botany, picnics and poetry. But if someone asks us to leave, that’s exactly what we’ll do.”


    The National Trust bylaws can be seen here:

    • The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes is published by Bloomsbury (£20). To order a copy for £17.40 go to Postage charges may apply.

    Walkers urged to help save historic footpaths before 2026 deadline

    The Ramblers have launched the Don’t Lose Your Way online mapping site to find and map thousands of miles of lost historic paths across England and Wales. An estimated 10,000 miles of historic paths are thought to be missing from maps & if not claimed before a 2026 government-deadline, they’ll be lost from maps forever. The new mapping tool divides the maps of England and Wales into 154,000 one-kilometre squares, which users can select to compare historic and current maps of the area side-by-side. Simply select a square, do a quick ‘spot the difference’, mark on any missing paths and click submit. It takes just a few minutes to check a square.

    The Ramblers Association are asking people to join the search to save thousands of miles of lost historic paths before a 2026 government-deadline with the launch of their new Don’t Lose Your Way online mapping site.

    Walkers urged to help save historic footpaths before 2026 deadline
    Lost paths must be identified by government deadline to be added to official record

    by Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, 11th February 2020

    Walkers are being urged to help identify 10,000 miles of historic footpaths that are missing from the map in England and Wales and could be lost for ever.

    All rights of way must be identified before a government deadline of 2026, after which it will no longer be possible to add old paths to the official record.

    The walking group Ramblers is calling on walkers, historians and map enthusiasts to use its new mapping site to identify missing footpaths.

    The online tool divides the official map into 150,000 1km squares so users can compare historic and current maps side by side, spot any differences and submit missing paths.

    Once mapped, Ramblers will recruit volunteers to make applications to restore paths to local authorities before the 2026 deadline.

    Jack Cornish, the project’s manager, said: “Our paths are one of our most precious assets. They connect us to our landscapes – ensuring we can explore our towns and cities on foot and enjoy walking in the countryside – and to our history and the people who formed them over the centuries.”

    If we lose our paths, a little bit of our past goes with them. This is our only opportunity to save thousands of miles of rights of way and time is running out.”

    Some lost paths are still in use, while others have become overgrown, but all were omitted from the “definitive” maps of 140,000 miles of paths that councils were required to draw up in the 1950s.

    Some walkers are already applying to local authorities to recognise lost paths but fear there are many more than the government’s estimate of 10,000 miles: a survey in Cornwall alone identified 3,000 paths that had fallen out of use.

    Paul Howland discovered a lost path called The Markway, in Hampshire, which ends abruptly in some undergrowth. The path was temporarily blocked during the second world war and by the time it was reinstated in 1956 it was overgrown and forgotten.

    Howland has calculated that in his area he would need to make two applications a week to register all the paths before 2026.

    Under English common law, rights of way do not expire but the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 required all rights of way to be recorded. The Ramblers are calling on the government to extend the deadline for registering historic paths by at least five years.

    Read also: Ramble on: the fight to save forgotten footpaths & Memory lanes: the ramblers trying to save 10,000 lost footpaths

    Environmental protesters barred from HS2 site in west London

    Environmental protesters barred from HS2 site in west London
    High court ruling extends injunction to include ancient woodland and London aquifer
    by Diane Taylor, The Guardian
    Thurs 16 May 2019 18.48 BST Last modified on Thu 16 May 2019 19.32 BST

    Environmental protesters have been barred from land where they say HS2 is carrying out works putting almost a quarter of London’s drinking water at risk, following a high court ruling on Thursday.

    The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, and HS2 Ltd were granted an extension to an existing injunction to prevent environmental activists from trespassing on the controversial HS2 site, a nature reserve in Colne Valley in Hillingdon, west London, which is an area of ancient woodland.

    There have been many protests on the site, with demonstrators saying they are trying to save up to 100 acres of ancient woodland and 2,400 species of flora and fauna. HS2 says it is creating an ecology habitat (pdf) on the site to compensate for any destruction caused by the construction of the high-speed rail link.

    The decision by David Holland QC, sitting as a deputy high court judge, extends the geographical area of the injunction to a field where the aquifer supplying 22% of London’s water is located.

    Protesters argued in court that any acts of trespass were carried out because of concerns that the HS2 works pile-driving through contaminated land into the aquifer would contaminate part of the capital’s water supply.

    Holland acknowledged the sincerity of the protesters’ motivations but said that as HS2 had possession of the land, the law was on their side to prevent trespass. He did, however, reject HS2’s application to keep the injunction in place until 2024, granting it instead until 1 June 2020.

    In the course of the hearing it emerged that a map of the whole area of land owned by HS2 had been mistakenly cited as the area covered by the injunction. In fact, the injuncted area does not cover all the land owned by HS2 around the site. Breaching a high court injunction is contempt of court and attracts much more serious penalties than the offence of trespass.

    In a statement to the Guardian, an HS2 spokesman said: “It was explained in the court proceedings that the map in question shows the land in the possession of HS2 at that time. The map has been incorrectly labelled as ‘Close up map of injunction order Harvil Road’ in the Crown Prosecution Service document describing the incident on 11 December 2018 [an alleged incident of trespass in breach of the injunction]. It should be labelled ‘Close up map of HS2 land possession’. HS2 will inform the CPS that their document should be updated and the plan relabelled.”

    Sarah Green, a member of the Green party who was one of the protesters named in the injunction application by HS2, said: “I’m very disturbed about the potential for HS2’s work to destroy the whole valley including the aquifer beneath it. They have accused me of breaking the injunction on land that isn’t injuncted. This could pollute the water supply for 3.2 million people.”

    Holland said to Green: “I’m concerned that your obvious energies are directed in the wrong direction. If you genuinely think there’s a real risk, you have mentioned criminal offences. If there is something in this you need to take it to someone, but not me.”

    Following the hearing, Green said: “I’m very disappointed that the area of land covered by the injunction has been extended. There is a real risk to the aquifer supplying 22% of London’s water and that matter has been put before the high court.”

    A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The Harvil Road construction compound in Hillingdon is subject to monitoring and has shown no contamination. The Environment Agency continues to work with and advise HS2 Ltd in relation to any potential environmental risks associated with the proposed construction of the HS2 project.”

    An HS2 spokesperson said: “As work progresses on the new railway, safety and security around all our live construction sites is paramount. HS2 has applied for an extension to the injunction at Harvil Road to keep people safe around our sites in the area, and to help us avoid delays and additional costs to the UK taxpayer. HS2 aims to be one of the most environmentally responsible infrastructure projects ever delivered in the UK .”