Posts Tagged 'Environment Agency'

Open goals, media handling, EU and the RSPB / WWF axis

The news cycle has moved on. The media roadshow has all but left town.  But for many people of the Somerset levels, the distress and upset caused by the flooding continues.  While the impact of the stagnant floodwater lapping around their communities and homes is all too real, for most people outside the area it is now almost a distant memory.

It’s with that in mind that Nigel Farage dropped into Burrowbridge on Thursday – for a pint naturally – and even made a reference to EU directives.  But the event, shoe-horned in to fit around various appointments and travel plans ahead of the UKIP spring conference, passed by virtually unnoticed and unremarked, and with it went Farage’s promise on Twitter of a press conference addressing the EU dimension to the flooding.

On the comment threads of this blog, my urgent calls for UKIP to get into this issue immediately and underline the EU role in it all, was dismissed by some for whom any criticism of the party or the leader is an outrage that requires immediate condemnation.  There was apparently a party ‘strategy’ in place to deal with this that we knew nothing about and which, surprise surprise, is yet to reveal itself weeks later.  Also despite Lisa Duffy’s train wreck comments on BBC Any Questions recently, there has been no correction from UKIP of her factual error about EU responsibility for the extent of the floods. Forget not being in the game, they haven’t even turned up at the venue!

Then on the failure to make the most of the media and PR opportunities available, I was told I knew nothing about these things, despite working in the profession for the last 14 years and having worked on political campaigns.  Now I don’t know everything but I do know that so far the use of the media, to make the point that EU membership and governance has played a major part in the ruination of the lives of people on the levels, has been non existant.  ‘Nige knows best’ was the subtext, but the outcome has been lamentable.  UKIP’s approach on matters of susbtance is always reactive, if it comes at all, and all too frequently the message misses the point.  The ‘Trust in Nige’ narrative used by the more tunnel visioned party members consistently puts us into a holding patten awaiting pronouncements from the great sage that then fail to materialise, then then adopt the ‘nothing to see here’ approach and move on to something else completely leaving the issue unresolved.

It is not just one open goal missed (again) but several.

The open goal of evident and explicit EU directives central to the actions of the Environment Agency regarding the flooding, some of which we referenced here, has been missed.  But also the open goal concerning the EU’s co-funding of projects with the RSPB and WWF to demonstrate techniques to evaluate and plan floodplain ‘restoration’ (aka, how to flood areas such as the levels).

Then in the last day another open goal has been presented that we can see clearly will be similarly ignored, that of the squandering of tens of millions of Euros of taxpayers’ money by the EU, to fund the activities of the very environmental groups who want to flood more areas in similar fashion, here and overseas. Everywhere we delve into reports and documents on this matter we see not just the all-too-active dead hand of the EU, but unelected and unaccountable long beak of the RSPB alongside the grubby panda’s pawprints of the WWF, which are liberally plastered over everything.

These supposed charities are in fact lavishly funded extensions of government in the EU.  They play a hugely significant and anti-democratic role in the formulation and delivery of policy and implementation of laws.  This EU governance structure should concern and anger people forced to live with the consequences of RSPB and WWF environmental desires being put into effect.

Many people who want something to justify leaving the EU would draw the line at being part of a union that not only permits this but actively encourages it and uses our money to ensure it happens.  But from UKIP we hear not one word about this.  What is it going to take to make them up their game and get these messages across?  Clearly the blogs will have to continue researching where the dots connect and publishing the details in the hope at least some peopleget the message.

If these facts, combined with a financial hit in the shape of grants totalling over €77 million given by the EU to just the WWF alone – one of the groups who pushed for the flooding of the levels – isn’t a subject for an EUsceptic party to bring to wider public attention, then what is?  This is not a blogger hoping UKIP will fail, this is a blogger frustrated that the party is failing and letting down everyone who wants to be free of this EU-driven eco lunacy.

Flooding: The Baroness Young and RSPB connection is even stronger than first identified

An interesting document has surfaced on the European Commission’s website, which enables us to understand a bit more of the complicated ‘wheels within wheels’ of overlapping organisational responsibility for the deliberate policy of surrendering managed environments to floodwater that has seen much of the Somerset levels submerged.

The document is the ‘Wise use of floodplains – a demonstration of techniques to evaluate and plan floodplain restoration’.  In other words, giving back reclaimed wetland that had been drained and while a managed environment had become home to many small communities and farms.

What stands out about this document is that the project (which is outlined on the short document linked above) is the timing and the funding.  It ran from 1st April 1999 until 1st April 2002 and was co-funded by the RSPB (which was the driving force behind the project) and the WWF to the tune of €1,056,065.85, a sum that was topped up with almost 50% of matched funding from the European Union – some €1,052,044.45 of taxpayers’ money – taking the total project budget to €2,108,110.30.

The timing and funding sources are significant because this kicked off in 1999 while Barbara Scott Young, aka Baroness Young of Old Scone the Labour peer, was the Chief Executive of… the RSPB.  Little over a year later, Baroness Young left the RSPB to take up appointment as Chief Executive of the very public body that would be able to implement the ‘restoration’ of floodplains and wetlands through policy… the Environmental Agency.

The bird loving flooding facilitator

The bird loving flooding facilitator

In terms of overseeing implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive, and their policies of ‘restoring’ wetlands and floodplains to a water covered state, Young’s transfer from the RSPB to the Environment Agency was the political equivalent of putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

In no way can it be argued that Labour put an impartial Chief Executive in charge of the Environment Agency, someone who would use the agency’s substantial human and financial resources to best effect to ensure adequate protection of the communities and businesses located in managed environments such as the Somerset levels.

Labour put in place one of their own to fulfil EU policy underpinned by a number of directives; a woman who was a zealot in matters of wildlife and habitats and whose approach we have already reported was in order to achieve ‘instant wildlife: just add water‘.  A woman whose desired outcome for the pumping stations that prevented the Somerset levels from being drowned was to destroy them with limpet mines to ensure reclaimed land was flooded again, in the expectation that habitats for the birds she values above the lives and livelihoods of the communities that would be swamped.

The moment Barbara Young was put in charge of the Environment Agency, the events of this winter (and last winter on a smaller scale) became inevitable.  When she was appointed what we saw was a RSPB take over the Environment Agency.  Backed by EU directives, the RSPB’s woman in the Environment Agency hot seat set about pursuing the wishes of the bird lovers.  Dredging was scaled back.  Pumping stations were left to ruin.

Millions of pounds that could and should have been used to safeguard managed environments through proper flood prevention in places like the Somerset levels, instead were allocated at EU behest to hugely expensive and lavish projects to create new habitats on the levels themselves – such as the hundreds of hectares of the Steart Peninsula being transformed into new saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands to attract species including wading birds and wildfowl, rare water voles and great crested newts at a cost of £20 million, while £3 million required for essential flood maintenance in the same area could not be found.  There is no way the Environment Agency left behind by Barbara Young would fight for such skewed spending priorites to be altered.  These kind of projects were what she always wanted and the EA has been delivering them with relish.

While the RSPB – part of Birdlife International – is in this mess up to its neck it does not prevent it from engaging in the most sickening hypocrisy, as in January when it joined with the Somerset Wildlife Trust (which also seems to prioritise birds over other wildlife) to call on MPs and others to press government and its agencies to develop a water management strategy for a more flood-resilient future on the Somerset Levels that benefits both people and wildlife – while expressing ‘concern’ over calls for the very dredging that has previously prevented such flood destruction in the past.  This was just an earlier instance of this week’s example of those who have brought about the situation in Somerset throwing up one vast smokescreen to conceal their complicity in action which directly led to the flooding disaster and magnified its effects.

But what of the RSPB’s partner in this plot to ethnically cleanse people off the Somerset levels, the WWF?  A trawl of their press centre shows they have not issued one release about the impact of the flooding on the Somerset levels on wildlife.  Rare butterflies, wild flowers, badger, vole, mouse and many other species, some of them rare have been killed by the flooding and had their own habitat polluted.  But from the WWF we hear nothing – bar calls for farmers to allow ‘small floods‘ on their land to prevent wider flooding downstream.  There is no mention of their complicity in or support of the ‘restoration’ of wetlands which led to environmental management decisions that have made this flooding so bad.

Overseas the WWF seems quite happy to rush in and comment on flooding, as they did in Poland in 2010, where they criticised development on floodplains.  But even then their intervention had a familiar ring to it.  Cue a reference to our old friend, Making Space for Water which we referenced in this earlier post.  The WWF made a deeply ironic observation that people in the Somerset levels might take issue with, when they claimed that:

More and more rivers around the world have been seeing projects to restore wetlands as natural wet and dry season reservoirs, with dramatic reductions in flood damage being only one of the benefits.

As for the WWF’s direction of travel, we note that earlier this month the organisation announced the appointment of Dr Marco Lambertini as Director General of WWF International.  This is noteworthy because he is currently the Chief Executive of… Birdlife International, the global partner of the RSPB.  Clearly the wheels within wheels are turning at an international level even outside the governance top table of the EU where such organisations sit as equals alongside representatives of national governments, informing and directing policy agendas in their own interests rather than the people in the European Union, who have no vehicle or method to exert anything like that kind of influence.

It is common to hear people say this country is going to the dogs.  All the evidence that is accumulating so far suggests that is wrong.  Thanks to the power wielded by certain organisations it is clearly going to the birds – helped by those who claim to love animals too.

Farage the policy-free zone

Guest post by Richard North

Richard North of the EU Referendum blog, who has done so much to expose the EU’s involvement and responsibility for exacerbating the extent of the flooding in the Somerset Levels, shares his assessment of Nigel Farage’s failure to use recent media opportunities to shine even more light on the EU’s role – and those who are defending this political error:

There is a certain constancy to the “Nigel can do no wrong” brigade. Whatever he does, ex post facto, his little claque will leap to his defence, saying he’s done exactly the right thing.

There is no getting away from the premise here, though, that Farage has scored a massive own goal. The EU dimension of the floods has, on my blog, been the most popular post I have ever written, attracting a massive level of interest. Yet “our Nige” has chosen to play a derivative game, all but ignoring the EU dimension. The sight of an anti-EU party leader ignoring the EU sends its own message.

Further, the populist dimension of the Farage message also sends a message. While there can be no doubt that more money will help in this growing crisis, above all else for the longer term, there is a massive policy deficit. You can throw money at a problem but if the policy framework is not right, the spending will have little effect or even – as we are seeing – a perverse effect.

Thus, it is absolutely essential that the deficiencies in policy are identified and corrected, which provides a magnificent opportunity for a focused and sustained attack on the EU. Farage, however, has walked away from the open goal. UKIP, as always, is out to lunch.

Nigel’s defenders can now blather all they want. But once again, Farage has shown himself to be a policy-free zone, a lightweight who is good for the “man-in-pub” routine but not a serious politician.

Somerset Levels flooding – when will Baroness Young be called to account?

The flooding in the Somerset Levels has seen substantial attention directed at Lord Smith, aka Chris Smith, the Chairman of the Environment Agency (EA) and at Owen Paterson, Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Smith has been in post since 2008 so he has a great deal to answer for as the EA’s plans have been put into effect.  But nowhere near enough attention is being directed at Baroness Young, aka Barbara Scott Young, former Chief Executive on the EA between 2000-2008.

Baroness Young, as Chief Executive of the EA, long had concerns that creating wildlife habitats, particularly of the wetland variety, could be very expensive.  With a biography that included former Chief Executive of the RSPB and former Chairman of English Nature, Vice President of Bird Life International, and President of the British Trust for Ornithology among others, wildlife habitats had long been something of a personal crusade.  But she had come to understand that by far the cheapest way was simply to allow natural flooding, on tracts of land that had been drained and claimed for use by people and agriculture. She coined a strategy that summed up the approach:

Instant wildlife: just add water!

So proud was she of this brilliant idea, she even went around delivering speeches under that very title.  She would have delivered one such speech to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society, but as you can see from the letter below, she was still recovering from an accident and had to be replaced by another EA specialist with something of a passion for wetlands and project manager of a range of initiatives on wetland/floodplain restoration in the Anglian Region, Dr Paul José.

In evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, the EU giving legal force to the wetland and river basin agenda Baroness Young was so enthusiastic about, she made clear the focus on the work in train, saying:

 …the Water Framework Directive is a misnamed directive; it should be the “Land Framework Directive”, because it is mostly about what happens on the land.

Exactly so. Land like the Somerset Levels among other places.  The levels had long since been drained and reclaimed and are now home to many farms in an area reliant on flood protection measures, including an array of pumping equipment to send any flood water back over the bank into the local rivers. But given Baroness Young’s preference for wildlife over humans, this is a state of affairs she could not bear.   Perhaps this accounts for the often repeated quote attributed to Baroness Young (as yet I have not found the original source of it) where she said:

I’d like to see a limpet mine put on every pumping station.

Of course, when one is head of the Environment Agency, it is far easier to divert spending and resources away from essential flood protection – in line with those EU directives – and put huge sums into birdlife habitats.  So it is in 2014 we see flooding in the Somerset Levels being far, far worse than it would have been if river dredging and proper flood protection measures had been maintained.  In fact, it has spiralled way out of control and communities that would not have seen flood water are now actually under it.  Baroness Young is squarely to blame for this because of an obsession with returning the area ‘to the wild’:

A significant element in the package of EU measures that have brought this about is the aforementioned Water Framework Directive.  It is one of those pro-wildlife, anti-human pieces of ecologist-inspired lawmaking that bears much of the responsibility for what is happening to so many people right now.  As such it is something that deserves substantial attention and scrutiny – if for no other reason than this that Baroness Young also said to the Lords Select Committee:

To be frank, however, if in 2015 we do a survey of the British public and there is even a minor proportion of them who can utter the words “Water Framework Directive”, I shall put a bullet through my head! It will have been the wrong thing to tell them. We want to tell them about outcomes, not about the processes.

Perhaps the flooded residents of Somerset would appreciate the chance to take just such a survey, give the appropriate answer that is so relevant to their current, manufactured plight, and then gather to see the architect of it, Baroness Young, honour her pledge.  It would at least rid us of one more self important , power crazed parasites who do so much damage in pursuit of personal preferences.

By way of a final thought, Baroness Young has been involved in the Commission on Assisted Dying.  In her biography page on the Commission’s website it is revealed that she has had an interest in Assisted Dying for 20 years. That is entirely believeable given her preference for wildlife over people.  Perhaps one wag would argue that she has gone even further and has been actively trying to assist in a death – of farming commuities on the Somerset Levels by helping to flood them off the land.

How the EU, last Labour government and Environment Agency agreed a plan to let the Somerset Levels flood

Allowing the flooding of the Levels was a matter of EU policy, introduced by a 2007 Directive and consciously adopted by the Environment Agency in 2008, which then sought to increase the frequency of flooding in the area.  Read on…

Brought to us courtesy of the EU, Greens, last Labour Gov't and the Environment Agency

Brought to us courtesy of the EU, Greens, last Labour Gov’t and the Environment Agency

As Richard North reveals on EU Referendum:

Unacknowledged by either government, the media or even Chris Smith in his current diatribe, this policy was given legislative force, not by the Westminster parliament but by an EU directive 2007/60/EC of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks.

There, in recital 14, we saw spelled out the requirement that flood risk management plans should focus on prevention, protection and preparedness. But, “with a view to giving rivers more space, they should consider where possible the maintenance and/or restoration of floodplains, as well as measures to prevent and reduce damage to human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity”.

There, writ large, was Defra’s “making space for water” policy and all that was needed for an already Green-dominated Environment Agency to abandon the Somerset Levels.

There’s more besides in the post, including how all this came into being, and the warnings of what was to come.  It really is a must read, particularly for journalists and those who like to comment on threads on the lamestream media’s websites.


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