Posted by: swinemoor | March 15, 2014

The Risks of Reseeding

According to the Beverley Advertiser (see below) the Pasture Masters are considering reseeding large parts of the Westwood Pasture because of damage caused by vandals driving cars across Westwood during the night. The latter activity is deplorable and, if anyone sees this happening, they should take the registration number and report the offence to the local police immediately. Only by doing this can we prevent this ‘plague’ from spreading.

Beverley Advertiser 12 March 2014 p. 3

Beverley Advertiser 12 March 2014 p. 3

That said, reseeding the pasture is not something that should be considered lightly and, if the Pasture Masters claim the Single Farm Payment for this land, they are likely to be in breach of the General Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) of this scheme. Indeed, we at NSH believe that the spreading of the pasture with crushed limestone in 2012 was a breach of these regulations, however, this was so unsuccessful in terms of the existing pH, that in practice it made no real difference. This latest proposal is of much greater concern as the area involved is very large (20% of the area) and is likely to do much greater damage to the unimproved and semi-improved swards that make up the majority of Westwood.

The GAECs for permanent pasture are a requirement of the Single Farm Payment Scheme (SFPS), claimed by over 90% of farmers in the UK and, in all likelihood, the Pasture Masters. These say that before any area of semi-natural grassland greater than 2 hectares is improved to raise the level of agricultural production, an Environmental Impact Assessment  of the proposals is required. Since the majority of the grassland on Westwood is semi-natural in nature with large areas being species-rich, the current proposal by the Pasture Masters to undertake this activity on 20% of Westwood (c. 60 ha) is clearly caught by the regulations.

In view of the above, we at NSH would strongly suggest that the Pasture Masters obtain professional advice before undertaking this work, to ensure that they do not threaten the floristic interest of the swards on Westwood. If they do not, and do not get permission from Natural England before they carry out the reseeding exercise, they risk a stop notice being served on them, the loss of their Single Farm Payment, fines and prosecution.

The Pasture Masters have for centuries acted in the interests of the people of Beverley and, on this occasion they clearly believe that are doing so again. However, damaging the existing sward and risking prosecution, however inadvertently, is clearly not acting in the public interest. The risk from ploughing to the buried heritage on Westwood is obvious, however, the risk to the floristics in the sward is less so (especially from top-dressing) but equally severe. We at NSH would recommend that, before undertaking this exercise, they contact Natural England and find out where the the archaeologically and botanically sensitive areas are. For the latter, a useful first reference would be the maps in the back of Barbara English’s Beverley Pastures book. By doing this, the sensitive areas can be avoided and the damage done by cars (idiots) rectified: any new proposals should clearly not involve breaking the surface and will require a bespoke seed mix.


Responses

  1. If the Council ecologists have undertaken a baseline survey and then checked this against their previous versions over the years, undertaken desk top research to establish species previous present and then found a comparable mix would it be a disaster?

    I don’t imagine that there are any Councillors with any ecological understanding or appreciation (but happy to be advised differently), but surely there are ecologists who work for the Council and who will have provided appropriate advice?

    Given the above then surely it is reasonable to assume that it is incumbent upon the Councillors to ensure that best practice is demonstrated given recent revelations and disclosures about their practices?

    • There are number of people in the local area who have a very good understanding of the floristics of Westwood. There is clearly a compromise that can be found here, however, in doing so it is imperative that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      For instance has anyone taken into account that there is Local Wildlife Site on Westwood, designated for its species-rich grassland? It is not the only area of calcareous grassland either: there are a number of smaller ones plus areas of woodland relict vegetation with a direct link back to its forest past.

      It is vital we ensure that these areas are protected whilst at the same time ensuring that the damage done by vandals is rectified.

      • So are you suggesting green hay from similar neighbouring site(s)?

      • Not necessarily. If the areas where the damage from the cars is of low floristic interest, then it is appropriate to reseed it (using non-tillage techniques) with a bespoke seed mix that closely matches the existing sward.

        This is more than adequate as most of Westwood (unlike Swinemoor and to a lesser extent Figham) is composed of unimproved, species-poor grassland.


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