Swallowtail (upperwing) - Iain Leach

On the 17th November the Environment Agency (EA) opened a month long public consultation period on their minded to decision to refuse renewal of two agricultural abstraction licences near to our Catfield Fen Reserve and the RSPB's Sutton Fen reserve.

This ‘minded-to’ decision has been reached after a long and detailed assessment. All the reports and documents relating to the case are availble on the gov.uk website.

Our article regarding the case in the current edition of Butterfly incorrectly stated that Natural England (NE) is part of the BC-RSPB campaign that has been pressing for the licence renewals to be refused until it is sufficiently clear that the abstractions are not contributing to the deteriorating condition of Catfield Fen and Sutton Fen.

Natural England’s statutory advisory role sets it apart from the campaign and we apologise for this confusion.

A statement letter by NGO conservation bodies involved with the Broads wetlands will be setting out our reasons for being against renewal given the uncertainties: - this is the ‘precautionary principle’ – a guiding tenet for the protection of such internationally important wetlands.  Our position draws on the assessments and submissions that NE has provided to the EA, as well as our own evidence of changing conditions on the sites.

From now (17 November 2014) until 15 December people can read about why the EA is minded to refuse the renewal of the abstraction licences and can submit any related comments or new evidence that may have come to light.

Statutory consultees Natural England and the Broads Authority will also be commenting on the ‘minded to’ decision. 

Dr Charles Beardall, Environment Agency Area Manager said: “The Broads are a unique ecosystem of great ecological value. It is our job to balance the water needs of people, farmers and businesses with those of the environment. At Catfield we’ve been considering all the available information on the local conditions in order to make the most informed decision we can.”

Once the consultation has closed the EA will consider all comments received before making a final decision to renew or refuse the licences.

A spokesman for Natural England said: “Catfield Fen, Sutton Broad, Sutton Fen and Sharp Street Fen form part of a nationally and internationally important site for wetland wildlife. The Environment Agency has been considering applications to renew two licences to abstract water and Natural England has provided advice. 

“The Environment Agency has now issued its “minded to” decision. Natural England will consider the detail of the decision, along with the responses from the subsequent consultation period, before submitting further advice to the Environment Agency.”

Information about the consultation can be found on the GOV.UK website.