No secret that this blog maintains much of the management decision making at Blacka is about getting hold of grants especially farm and environmental subsidies. Also interesting is the discovery that the Countryside Stewardship Agreement was signed in 2002 even though it was never discussed at the lengthy Icarus consultation in 2006. I have regularly said that the major problem with handing over public land to private organisations is that there is no longer a possibility of genuine public scrutiny. We have found that Sheffield Wildlife Trust can simply say what they want and disclose information or not when asked by people who otherwise would have a right to know. Through Freedon of Information request to Natural England we can now read the text of that Countryside Stewardship Agreement. You can access the papers here though you will have to open a zip file. Amongst other stipulations it insists that:
"Grazing must take place for at least 12 weeks between 1 April and 31 August."
This is of course a major contentious item for the public. The grazing and farmification of Blacka was just what we had resisited. But it was on this that Sheffield Wildlife Trust depended to get its grant.
But what happens if they don't comply with this requirement and for one reason or another do not or cannot graze?
Well apparently they just carry on getting the money. This can be seen in another document from the same FoI request. It shows that a similar amount has been paid for each of the years from 2007. Extract below:
AREA AMOUNT PAID
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 7714 71.85 £3,592.50 Dec-07
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 4267 19.22 £961.00 Dec-07
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 7714 61.14 £3,057.00 Nov-08
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 4267 6.51 £325.50 Nov-08
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 9040 10.74 £535.50 Nov-08
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 5665 12.71 £635.50 Nov-08
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 7714 61.14 £3,057.00 Oct-09
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 4267 6.51 £325.50 Oct-09
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 9040 10.64 £535.50 Oct-09
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 5665 12.71 £635.50 Oct-09
Enhancing lowland heath SK2881 6515 0.07 £3.50 Oct-09
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 7714 61.04 £3,052.00 Oct-10
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 4267 6.55 £327.50 Oct-10
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 9040 10.67 £533.50 Oct-10
Enhancing lowland heath SK2880 5665 12.54 £627.00 Oct-10
Enhancing lowland heath SK2881 6515 0.07 £3.50 Oct-10
Yet payments were made after claims went in for two years on this chart when no grazing happened. The details show clearly that the payments were made even when the main condition for the payment was not complied with. Do we really have this sort of money in the public purse to pay out on an operation that is useless anyway and didn’t even happen? In 2008 and in 2010 there were no cattle on what they choose to call the ‘lowland heath’ (at 1100 feet, for goodness sake??)– and in my view the place was much the better for it. I have the photos to show that.
I am now awaiting a response from the Rural Payments Agency regarding Single Farm Scheme payments. It will be interesting to see if further payments were made in the same years.