National Sheep Association bare teeth against Lynx proposals

Sheep May Not Safely Graze

Sheep May Not Safely Graze

 

The Farming Community often decry Conservationists for scaremongering. For example on the question of whether  Neonicotinoids are contributing to the loss of pollinating invertebrates such as Bees.

But farmers  are not immune to bouts of hysterical scaremongering either, particularly when it comes to returning extinct mammals.

The latest outburst from Phil Stocker of the National Sheep Association shows how some in the farming community are pathologically afraid of relinquishing the absolute control they have over our landscapes. I think it is a form of megalomania – a phobia of extinct predators. This from Farmers Weekly today:

Plans to release wild lynx into the British countryside have encountered stiff opposition from sheep farmers.

The Lynx UK Trust conservation charity wants to reintroduce the animal into three areas of Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Suffolk.

It is in the process of submitting an official application for permission to do so to Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage.

But the National Sheep Association has voiced its opposition to the scheme.

Reintroducing lynx after more than 1,300 years of extinction would pose a real threat to British livestock, said the association.

Even trial work with the wild cat would lead to predation of livestock, in particular, ewes and lambs, it warned.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker has written to Natural England head James Cross and Defra minister Lord De Mauley over the issue.

Mr Stocker said: “Our primary concern is that the lynx will threaten livelihoods and businesses within the farming industry. Ewes and lambs would be much easier prey than deer because they can’t get away so quickly.

He added: “We were heartened to receive a speedy response from Natural England, assuring us that, if and when it receives an application from the Lynx UK Trust, it will consult ‘all relevant parties’ and consider the socio-economic impacts of the reintroduction, as well as impacts on the environment and the animals themselves.

“This is vitally important, as the project will disrupt vulnerable ecosystems and challenge the viability of sheep farms. This will, in turn, have a damaging impact on farmers’ livelihoods and businesses if the lynx prey on sheep.”

Mr Stocker said believed that the charity hadn’t considered the long-term implications of the project.

“It’s all very well to talk about the release of six or eight lynx, but how do you control them in the years to come when numbers get to a point where they threaten sheep in the area?”

For starters the Lynx Trust is not a charity. I saw something a while ago on its facebook page that it was applying for charitable status, but this has disappeared now. I wonder whether their application for charitable status has been refused. This could be related to the decision by the Charity Commission to refuse to register the The Wolf Trust, as they did not believe that reintroducing the Wolf to Scotland would deliver any public benefit.

Or I may be barking up entirely the wrong tree and setting various Hare’s running (no doubt which will be caught by the Lynx) and the Lynx Trust are just waiting for the Charity Commission to wake up and process their application.

Secondly, a Lynx reintroduction might lead to livestock being eaten. Yes! It might! And….?

I don’t wish to teach sheep farmers to suck eggs, but sheep are bred to be eaten. That is why sheep exist. So does it matter by what animal sheep are eaten?

Bearing in mind that almost all sheep farming (and certainly all upland sheep farming) depends entirely for its existence on public subsidies, through the Common Agricultural Policy, then surely it’s up to the subsidy-paying public whether we mind, that a few subsidised sheep are eaten by Lynx instead of being eaten by people (or dogs).

I would certainly support a programme of compensation for sheep eaten by Lynx, as happens in every other country in Europe where Lynx occur. As I wrote before, farmers complaining about livestock being eaten by savage predators is one of the oldest stories of all.

Finally Mr Stocker is afear’d that returning Lynx to Britain will “disrupt vulnerable ecosystems”. This is hilarious – the idea that the spokesman for the sheep industry, which conducts one of the most damaging activities for nature in the UK, is worried that a handful of Lynx will disrupt anything, really does beggar belief.  The whole point of restoring extinct species such as the Beaver or the Lynx is because we now understand how important these creatures are for the key roles they play in ecosystems. We have a terrible and increasing problem with wild deer in the UK; reintroducing the Lynx is one way of reducing the national deer population.

But there’s a bigger point at stake here. Which is, who decides what happens to nature in the UK? Can we really be held hostage by vested interests such as the National Sheep Association? The fight to stop the River Otter Beavers from being killed suggests that with enough public outcry we can achieve a change in these antediluvian attitudes.

Photo by Graham Horn [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Posted in grazing, lynx, National Sheep Association | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

The Nature of God’s Acre

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I’m heading over to Sussex today to launch a new book which I have co-authored. It’s called The Nature of God’s Acre and arises from a project which I have been working on for the past 18 months, exploring the relationship between the spiritual and natural value of churchyards in Sussex. The project was inspired by the work of Caring for God’s Acre, which is an excellent charity working with local communities to manage their churchyards for nature, as well as for history, and of course for people visiting the graves of their loved ones (or ancestors).

Using a paper and online questionnaire, we asked a (mostly) random sample of 40 parishes across the Chichester Diocese (which is the counties of East and West Sussex) if they would like to be involved in the project, most of whom said yes.  In the end we received 175 individual responses from 26 churchyards. We had originally intended for a significant portion of the sample to be from churchyards which had been already identified as being of high value for nature, as Sites of Nature Conservation Interest. In the event only 5 SNCI churchyards elicited responses, so it was a mostly random sample. Indeed, we received several responses from churchyards which weren’t even in the random sample, so they were even more random!

The questionnaire asked local parishioners and members of the local community who used their churchyards about the wildlife they encountered there and how they felt about it. We also asked them why they were visiting the churchyards; and finally we asked them how they felt when visiting the churchyards for different reasons, and whether the nature they encountered there made a difference to the way they experienced the churchyard. Because we included opportunities for people to write about their experiences (as well as ticking boxes), this gave my co-author Revered Dr Mark Betston, the opportunity to consider their experiences from a theological perspective. We also included a page for each parish that took part, showing where they are, and quoting from members of their community who said how they felt about their churchyard and its nature.

Here are the conclusions I drew from analysing the questionnaire data:

Most churchyard visitors who completed the survey were over 56 and this probably accurately reflects the demographic of churchyard users. Most visitors visited at least once a month throughout the year with no particular time of year proving more popular.

The most popular reason given for visiting a churchyard is when visiting the church for religious reasons. A third of visitors stated they visited churchyards to “a peaceful moment” (19%) and “to enjoy nature” (14%). 13% of respondents visited churchyards to “visit the grave of a loved one” and 10% for contemplation/prayer.

We asked people to choose words to best describe how they felt in their churchyards – the overwhelmingly most popular words were peace, peaceful, peacefulness, tranquil and tranquillity. History, contemplation and various words to describe nature in churchyards were next most important for respondents.

95% of respondents confirmed they noticed the wildlife in their churchyards, with wild flowers being the wildlife which most caught people’s eye, followed by birds, butterflies and trees. People also most enjoyed seeing wildflowers and birds in their churchyards, followed by trees and butterflies.

Many people strongly agreed that they felt peaceful, happy and relaxed when they saw wildlife in their churchyard. A large number also agreed having a spiritual feeling, being thoughtful and contemplative when they saw wildlife in their churchyard.

Slightly over half of all respondents felt there was enough wildlife in their churchyards, but 43% felt there was not enough. A very small number (3%) felt there was too much, relating to concerns about untidiness and moles. People who felt there was not enough wildlife, wanted to see more wild flowers, butterflies and birds in their churchyards. Only a third of people with SNCI churchyards thought there was not enough wildlife, compared to nearly half with non-SNCI churchyards.

We asked people whether they valued the presence of wildlife in their churchyards when visiting for different reasons. People felt much more strongly about the presence of wildlife in their churchyards when enjoying for a peaceful moment, than for contemplation/prayer, or visiting the grave of a loved one. 91% of people agreed they valued the presence of wildlife when enjoying a peaceful moment and two thirds strongly agreed. Nearly three quarters of visitors agreed they valued the presence of wildlife in their churchyards when visiting for contemplation/prayer; and two thirds agreed when visiting the grave of a loved one.

Over three quarters of those surveyed agreed that they valued the presence of wildlife in their churchyard, when visiting for these reasons.

Amidst all the talk of ecosystem services, how many tonnes of carbon is locked up in a forest, or how much a bee is worth to the farming industry, it’s vital that we remember that nature provides us with things we cannot and should not put a monetary value on – “a peaceful moment” “a sense of awe and wonder”. And these things can be found in the middle of many communities, hidden away, in our ancient churchyards.

You can get a copy of The Nature of God’s Acre from NHBS, priced very reasonably at £4.99 (plus P and P).

The project was kindly funded by the the Spencer-Wills Trust and CPJ Field Limited.

Posted in books, spiritual value of nature, Sussex, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Invasive Plants caused muddled thinking

 

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The BBC picked up a story about “invasive plants” yesterday, but didn’t do a very good job of conveying its messages.

The paper just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is from Chris Thomas’ group at the University of York. Basically the researchers looked at the occurrence of native and non-native (which they unhelpfully term “invasive) plants in Countryside Survey plots. They found no correlation between declines in native plant occurrences and occurrence of non-native plants; and concluded from this that non-native plants posed no threat to native plant status, and then, in quite a leap, concluded that non-native plants posed no threat to British biodiversity, or even global biodiversity.

The paper has serious weaknesses though; for example Perennial Ryegrass, one of the commonest species in the entire country, is treated as if it were a native plant, while Italian Ryegrass is treated as a non-native. Almost all of the Perennial Ryegrass in the UK originates from agricultural forms, specifically bred and sown: How is that native? Once established agricultural forms of grasses can be very difficult to shift, as anyone who has tried to restore a wildflower-rich grassland from a ryegrass field will know. Often the only way is to herbicide the ryegrass to get rid of it (or through repeated cultivation). The same applies to agricultural forms of white clover, again treated as a native species in the PNAS paper.

I’ve written before about the exaggerated claims of impending doom resulting from the presence of non-native plants – and was taken to task by some readers for suggesting that Himalayan Balsam wasn’t quite such an ecocidal maniac of a species as has been suggested. But there is evidence for HB that it has an impact in certain places in Britain, albeit not on native plants, but on invertebrate fauna.

Phil Brewin, the Somerset Levels hydrological expert also pointed out that where HB replaces grass on river banks, the banks can lose stability and become vulnerable to “shear forces, slips and frost damage”. Whether this in turns leads to negative impacts on nature is not clear, but it seems akin to me to the problems associated with Japanese Knotweed damaging the foundations of buildings.

One of the best ways to stop HB from colonising river banks is to ensure they continue to receive grazing, but this can also present challenges. The level of grazing, type of animals and seasonality of such grazing needed to control HB (without damaging river banks), may well not fit in with the needs of conventional livestock farmers, to ensure their animals continue to gain condition, weight or produce milk.

While HB clearly does cause problems, it also provides an important late summer nectar source for invertebrates, and this can be significant in landscapes now shorn of their native nectar sources.

In the BBC article,  Balsam was fingered for contributing to the decline of the Tansy Beetle, the argument being that HB has somehow ousted Tansy (on which the Tansy Beetle depends) from its riverbank homes. I find this argument dubious – the distribution of Tansy has not changed, according to the most recent BSBI Atlas; Tansy distribution is complicated by the fact that there was a native population, which has been supplemented over many centuries by escapes from gardens, as it was an important mediaeval medicinal herb. Tansy has a fairly catholic set of habitat preferences and pops in all sorts of places, not just on riverbanks and fens where the Tansy Beetle lives. It’s easy to blame the Balsam invader – but then how many of the Tansy populations on which the Tansy Beetle used to occur were garden escapes?

Perhaps the simplest answer to controlling Himalayan Balsam would be for Beavers to return to a catchment. Evidently they do eat HB. Beavers may consume several kilo’s of herbaceous vegetation a day through the summer, so a family of beavers in a smallish catchment with plentiful Himalayan Balsam could consume the entire population within a few years.  Beavers also eat macrophytes (free floating water plants), and could be a very effective way of removing problematic introduced species such as  Swamp Stonecrop and Parrot’s Feather from water bodies.

I think one of the reasons why Prof Thomas’ researchers found no effect of non-native plants on native populations is that the data set they analysed was far too coarse. The Countryside Survey sample sites were set in typical farmland, not the vanishingly small areas that are now sufficiently high quality habitat to support threatened plant species. It’s hardly surprising the researchers discovered the CS plots supported very few non-native species, as the CS plots only support very common plant species, whether they are native or not. What the CS plots did tell us was about the large-scale changes to the countryside that occurred over the period in which the Countryside Survey was running, although many of the changes that removed nature (especially the declining and threatened species) from our landscapes, had already happened by the time the CS started in 1978.

Does any of this further the debate around the “problem” of invasive non-native species? Perhaps. We need to think again how we view native and non-native. There is a  strong groundswell of support to bring back the Beaver, as shown by the public’s support for the Otter Beavers, and the way that public engagement forced the Government to back track on its goal of removing them.

But how long ago should we look to consider whether a species is worthy of return, or indeed being valued as an authentic member of Britain’s nature. The poor humble rabbit, vilified as a pest, shot gassed and poisoned as vermin, was a native mammal of Britain during previous interglacials.  Rhododendron ponticum and Water Fern, both regarded as serious problems for native wildlife which need to be eradicated, were native species. And Arable Weeds, which were all introduced from the Near East from the Neolithic onwards, are regarded as high priorities for conservation.

Where is the rationale for arguing that a species that has been extinct for 500 years is worthy of restitution, while those that were extinct for a few hundred thousand but returned by human agency, must be extirpated?

Posted in alien invasive species, Beavers, himalayan balsam, invasive species | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Bees & Weeds Installed

This gallery contains 20 photos.

Originally posted on pbd:
Our 6 month Bees & Weeds research project has finally delivered results.  During the past week we adopted guerrilla marketing tactics to promote the project, carrying out interventions in the streets of Oxford – installing and photographing…

Gallery | Leave a comment

Rampisham Down Factsheet #6: The Solar Farm Business: British Solar Renewables and Community Heat and Power

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Brownfield Site? Rampisham Down SSSI

It pays to know who you are dealing with, and this is as much the case at Rampisham Down as anywhere else.

The developers of Rampisham Down are British Solar Renewables, as I have mentioned before. BSR’s directors include Angus MacDonald, a farmer and business man whose father was a prominent Tory party fundraiser and politician Ian MacDonald. A recent addition to BSR’s board is Rupert Cotterell, who was in the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University with George Osborne. Giles Frampton is also a director of BSR.

Although these are the directors, the company is, according to Companies House data, owned by another company, Sustainable Power Generation Limited. This is owned by Angus MacDonald and his sister. This company has taken out a big loan (around £13m) from another company called RRAM Limited. RRAM has share capital of nearly £45M, just under half of which is owned by the MacDonalds;  plus two financiers, and  just under a quarter of its equity is owned by Lombard International Assurance. LIA are a “wealth management” company based in Luxembourg, and have recently been bought by Global Investment Company Blackstone.

BSR also raised £40M by selling a bond to a Pension Fund investment company The Pension Insurance Corporation. Or rather another MacDonald company, Solar Power Generation Limited, raised this funding. It’s not clear to me how it relates to the above Sustainable Power Generation Limited.

I know very little about how these things work, but it does seem to me that BSR has quite a complex company structure. Each solar farm they develop is set up as a separate company. This may make good business sense, making it easier for BSR to sell off farms they have developed. Indeed this is exactly what BSR did last year selling off three solar farms for £74M.

Another company which seems to be very involved with Rampisham, and BSR’s business more generally, is Community Heat and Power. CHandP have a lot to say about Rampisham – most of the “comments” on their website are about Rampisham. It was their website which made the silly claim that Natural England’s photos of the flower-filled lowland acid grassland couldn’t have been taken at Rampisham “because it looks nothing like this”. And it was they who chided me for criticising Professor Ghillean Prance’s views that the SSSI quality lowland acid grassland at Rampisham Down was “very degraded” and supporting no botanical species of concern”. Professor Prance is being paid by CHandP to advise on the Rampisham “monitoring experiment”.

Now CHandP have proudly announced that BSR have commissioned them to work on a big new project, which will culminate in ecological management plans being produced for 30 of BSR’s solar parks. It doesn’t mention whether Rampisham is included in the 30 or not. Indeed the whole piece doesn’t mention Rampisham once.

Buglife has signed up to help develop the technical guidance for invertebrates and Buglife think that this project “will set the Gold Standard for conservation in and around Solar installations”. Or does it? I queried Buglife’s role in this with Buglife and they stated that they were a “consultant” to CHandP. Now I know enough about charities to know that charities cannot do consultancy; they have to set up trading arms, often known as consultancies, to do any profit-generating work. I understand that Buglife has recently established such a trading arm called Buglife Ecological Consultancy Services. So I can only assume that CHandP have mistaken Buglife the charity with Buglife Ecological Consultancy Servces, the business. Buglife objected to the Rampisham Down Solar Farm proposal.

But who are CHandP? CHandP is a little over a year old. CHandP state on their website that they

“provides industry expertise, project management, advice and investment to help local communities maximise the benefits of renewable energy schemes.”

According to Companies House, CHand P has one Director, Hannah Lovegrove. Hannah Lovegrove is British Solar Renewables’ Director Giles Frampton’s partner. Lovegrove is also director of 10 of BSR’s Solar Park companies and several other related companies within the BSR company group. CHandP is owned by Communities Utilities Limited, whose current directors are Lovegrove and Julian Brooks. A previous CHandP Director was Neil Lawson. Lawson is head of renewable heat at Ardenham Energy, which was bought by British Solar Renewables in 2013.

Community Utilities Limited was registered at a Dorset Solicitors on 27th March 2014. The preceding and proceeding companies registered with this solicitors were:

Project Blue Sky Limited (2nd May): Directors initially Hannah Lovegrove, followed by Angus MacDonald

and

Skyfall Energy Limited (17th March): director Hannah Lovegrove, with six  Solar Farm Companies as subsidiaries. These include BSR’s Coombe Bissett pv Park, another controversial proposal which has just got its planning permission.

The evidence I have been able to find so far, shows close links between Community Heat and Power and the “British Solar Renewables” group of companies. When Community Utilities Limited (CHandP’s parent company) submit their annual return to Companies House in May we will hopefully find out who owns them.

 

Photo: (c) Miles King

Posted in British Solar Renewables, community heat and power, Rampisham Down, renewable energy, Solar Farms, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nigel Farage, Testicular Cancer and Me

I find myself in the strange position of sharing an intimate and life-changing experience with Nigel Farage. We have both lost a testicle to cancer. However, this is where our shared experience ends.

His tumour was not recognised and he was misdiagnosed, it appears, several times, before a private doctor identified the condition correctly. In his autobiography, he deliberately mentioned that it was an “Indian Doctor” who was responsible for one of the mis-diagnoses. As if being “Indian” automatically meant that you were less capable of doing your job effectively.

He used the experience to criticise the NHS, as if the failings of doctors within the NHS were somehow caused by the NHS itself, instead of being their own individual failings. He was 21 when this happened, he is only 4 months older than me, so this happened just around 30 years ago, in 1985. I developed my cancer in 1998.

I think a lot changed  between those dates, in terms of the awareness of Testicular Cancer among GPs. By the time mine appeared, my doctor was able to refer me to a consultant immediately following me turning up to see her, and I was operated on the following day after seeing the consultant.

Since then the prevalance of Testicular Cancer has continued to increase and it’s now the most common cancer in young men. It’s treatable, as long as it is caught early enough. I was lucky in that I didn’t feel embarrassed about going to see my GP fairly quickly when I realised something was wrong.

After the op I then had chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial which lasted ten years. During that time I made regular visits to see my consultant who was one of the leading experts in Testicular Cancer in the country. So I felt extremely well looked after.

I had a very positive experience of the NHS during that time, although since then with other family members I have seen different sides to our Health Service.

Some say having Cancer changes you life. I would say I had a minor brush with Cancer, especially now having lost my dad and brother to terminal forms. One thing that having Cancer did for me was it led me to immediately give up smoking. It was just an obvious thing to do, I didn’t really think about it. So now when I see Nigel Farage with a fag in his hand  – and he seems to use it as some sort of totem, a way of saying “I’m one of you” to his followers – I think, what an idiot. You’ve survived one cancer scare, why invite it back?

Posted in cancer, NHS, Nigel Farage, Testicular Cancer, UKIP, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Labour/UKIP voters put Environment/Climate Change as 2nd top Choice for Spending Cuts

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Amid all the flummery of Clarkson’s cold cuts, Shapps’ second job, and Champion’s poppy wreath claim, there was a youGov poll, which showed Labour and the Tories neck and neck in the race to the General Election. No news there then.

The pollsters also like to ask the public about other matters, and in this budget week they asked if public spending should be cut or increased: 44% said if any money was available to spend it should be spent on public expenditure, nearly twice as many as those who wanted tax cuts (25%) or spent on cutting the deficit (20%).

The pollsters went on to ask about where future cuts in public spending should fall. Asked to choose three sectors from a list, the polled chose the following:

  1. Overseas Aid 66
  2. Welfare benefits 36
  3. Environment and Climate Change 29
  4. Defence 19
  5. Local Government 11
  6. Transport 8

and a number of other sectors which added up to 16 points. Ignoring the don’t knows, the total was 192. If everyone had chosen three, then the total would have been 300 (less the don’t knows). So clearly not everyone chose 3, the average being just under 2.

There was cross-party support for cutting the overseas aid budget, although welfare benefits cuts were most popular with Tories. UKIP voters were equally enthusiastic about cutting welfare and environment/climate change budgets. Labour voters preferred to cut environment and climate change funding ahead of welfare. LibDems preferred to cut Welfare and Defence spending before environment/climate change, which tied for fourth place with transport.

Of course this is just a snapshot with 1400 voters and the usual caveats apply. It’s also to my mind unhelpful to lump the environment in with climate change, particularly as it is such a polarising policy area. A bit of context might have been useful. The Welfare budget is £120Bn, Overseas Aid is £11Bn. Defra’s budget is £2.2Bn while DECC spent £7.6Bn last year, most (over £5Bn) of which appears to have been spent decommissioning nuclear reactors. The NHS spends £100Bn a year and Schools £54Bn.

Given the relatively tiny amounts spent on the environment and climate change, it’s all the more extraordinary that these areas should be picked out by the public for further cuts – especially as Defra was the hardest hit Government department in this Parliament, taking a hit of over 30% in its funding.

It’s difficult to draw any other conclusion from these results, that, apart from the 9% who would protect spending on the environment and climate change above all else, the remainder of the public are either neutral, or have active animosity against spending on the environment/climate change. It may well be that the environment as a concept does not really have much meaning to the public, because it is so all encompassing; and if climate change is becoming a toxic issue for many (and there’s an interesting take on that by Mark Lynas here ) then “the environment” will be tainted by association.

What is clear though is that without the support of the general public, politicians of all flavours will not take these things seriously. And the environment movement has to take responsibility for the fact that, after 40 years of work, and regardless of millions of people belonging to and supporting environmental organisations, we have failed to persuade the general public that “the environment” is an important part of Government policy and spending.

photo: Poppy wreath By Caroline Ford (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in anti-environmental rhetoric, climate change, General Election, Labour, UKIP, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

UKIP Farm Spokesman Stuart Agnew’s chickens to be roasted by Massive Solar Farm

UKIP Farm Spokesman and Egg Farmer Stuart Agnew

UKIP Farm Spokesman and Egg Farmer Stuart Agnew

UKIP’s agriculture spokesman (John) Stuart Agnew may know nothing about chemistry, but he knows how to raise chickens. Agnew has a farm in Norfolk, where he has a 35000-chicken free range egg farm. Agnew also receives EU farm subsidies on his Norfolk acres, both Single Payment and Entry Level Scheme.

Agnew’s Fincham Farm (or is it Paxfield Farm?) received around €100,000 of single payment in 2007, that equates to a sizeable 500ha farm – rather more than the 400 acres suggested in the Harrogate Informer. Agnew also receives ELS on 175ha which adds up to around £5250 a year. Mr Agnew is former chairman of Norfolk NFU.

Agnew is also grandson of Sir John Stuart Agnew, 3rd Baronet Agnew. Cousins in the direct line of ascendance own the Rougham Estate in Suffolk.  Agnew’s cousins appear to be considerably more enlightened than him.

Although Agnew clearly feels that the EU has been a disaster for Britain, he has done remarkably well out of it personally. But if UKIP win, he will be alright, because, as UKIP farm spokesman, he has already committed UKIP to carry on subsidising farmers (for doing nothing other than owning land), up to around £120,000  a year. That’s handy. UKIP would also remove livestock (eg Chicken) units from Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) regulations.  Handy too.

Mr Agnew is pro-GM and uses GM-feed for his chickens. He thinks introducing GM-sugar beet means “wild beet will be history“. This is the first time I’ve heard any politician advocate exterminating a wild native plant from Britain. But then this is Norfolk, where growing Sugar Beet is very big business.

Agnew has done well enough from his farm subsidies to be able to afford to fly business class to India to have a hip operation done privately out there, because the NHS had a “laid back attitude towards arthritis.” I’m glad our taxpayers money subsidising farmers like Agnew has been spent so well, but I’m not sure how well this fits in with UKIP’s policy on the NHS hiring doctors “who don’t speak very good English“.

Agnew will be much less happy about what’s happening on his neighbour’s land. His neighbour used to be the RAF at RAF West Raynham. The RAF closed the airfield and it was sold off years ago. It’s now fallen into the hands of the dreaded Solar Farmers. Good Energy has won planning permission to build one of the largest Solar Farms in Britain – a massive 49 MW  array, all over the land neighbouring Mr Agnew’s farm, where his chickens lay their eggs.

Imagine someone who is so incensed at the idea of action against climate change that they think it will stop plants growing, waking up every morning and being greeted with the sight of hundreds of acres of shining solar panels; silently, malevolently, mercilessly sucking precious life-giving gases out of the atmosphere.

West Raynham Solar Farm

Posted in agriculture, climate change, Common Agricultural Policy, Solar Farms, UKIP, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Solar Farm developers paying £1000 an acre a year to landowners

There’s an interesting piece on Farmers Weekly online today about rents landowners can expect to receive from Solar Farm developers. Despite the changes in the subsidy regime, the article suggests landowners can still look for £1000 an acre per annum for solar rental. If they can then persuade Defra that they are still actively farming the land, they can receive another £80 an acre of CAP subsidy on top. Though that looks pretty paltry compared to what they are getting for solar.

Another interesting point made in the article is that the national grid is now at capacity  – there is so much electricity flowing into the national grid on a sunny day that it cannot cope with it all. One wonders what happens to the excess (cue UKIP concern about surplus solar electricity leaking out into the countryside, killing farm animals). The key appears to be whether a solar farm is “grid-permissioned” or not. If it’s not, then it won’t be able to feed electricity into the grid, which makes it pretty redundant.

At the proposed Rampisham Down site, there was a high voltage connection to power the previous Radio Transmitting Station on the site, so it is obviously well-connected to the national grid. I don’t know whether Rampisham qualifies as a “grid-permissioned site” or not though  – any ideas?

The last point from the article is that Solar Farm developers are now looking to scale up to a point where the farms operate at a profit without subsidy, and the break point is thought to be above 20MW. Rampisham is currently proposed to be 24MW, though would be larger still if British Solar Renewables go ahead with their planned additional solar farm north of the A356.

 

Posted in Rampisham Down, Solar Farms | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UKIP exposes commEUnist plot to suck all carbon dioxide from atmosphere

UKIP Agriculture Spokesman Stuart Agnew made this statement/asked this question in the European Parliament yesterday, of Socialist Group leader Gianni Pitella

Mr Pitella are you aware that if you succeed in decarbonising europe our crops will have no natural gas to grow from. We have to have carbon dioxide. This is madness, absolute madness what you are suggesting and our industry, our Agricultural industry is going to suffer heavily if we attempt to bury carbon dioxide in the ground. It is absolutely mad.

Amazingly some people clapped. And even more amazingly UKIP have proudly put the video of this on their website.

There is a strong contingent of the tin-foil hat brigade within UKIP and it now seems clear that Stuart Agnew is a member, alongside Environment spokesman Professor Doctor Andrew Charalambous aka Dr Earth, who is equally concerned about contamination of his precious bodily fluids.

Agnew’s revelation follows hot on the heels of a UKIP prospective parliamentarian asking

what happens when the renewable energy runs out?

original story via ThomasPride

 

Posted in agriculture, carbon storage, UKIP | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments