We've sent a letter to the DEFRA Secretary of State to counter an “ill-advised attack” on Natural England

Wednesday 10 April, 2024

We have today sent a letter to the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, DEFRA Secretary of State.

The correspondence calls out Norfolk MPs who are labelling Natural England’s recent barbastelle bat guidance ‘arbitrary’ as they ask DEFRA Secretary of State to stop the report from blocking development of the controversial Norwich Western Link road.

The letter, co-signed by national organisations including The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, The Woodland Trust, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation, calls the MP’s April 2nd letter “an ill-advised and unfair attack” on the dedicated work of Natural England specialists and the main contributor to the Favourable Conservation Status report for barbastelle bats, who is a renowned expert in the species.

The letter outlines the importance of Natural England’s evidence-based Favourable Conservation Status report and the guidelines it adheres to. It asks the Secretary of State to respect the role of Natural England as the Government's advisor on nature, bringing a considered and independent position based on evidence.

The recent barbastelle bat Favourable Conservation Status report is one of many reports published by Natural England that identifies how well wildlife species which are specially protected by law due to their rarity and vulnerability are faring in the UK.

The report, which is a fundamental pre-requisite for meeting legal obligations from the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, concludes barbastelle bats are not in favourable conservation status. This means that developments which are likely to damage the habitats which barbastelle bats rely on, particularly where significant populations are surviving, are unlikely to be licensed.

In our letter, we point out that the proposed Norwich Western Link road would be built through one of the most important areas for barbastelle bats in the UK and would be extremely damaging. It highlights that Norfolk County Council’s own report from as long ago as 2009 recognises the species is one of the UK’s rarest mammals and that Norfolk is one of its remaining strongholds.

Gareth Dalglish, our Director of Nature Recovery, explains in the letter: "Given that we have known for a very long time that barbastelle bats are both exceptionally rare and threatened, it is no surprise that the report indicates that the UK population is in unfavourable conservation status.”

He goes on to say: “The MP’s letter states several times that the guidance in the report is ‘arbitrary’. This is simply not the case. The Favourable Conservation report uses the best available evidence to estimate population size, range and status. This is not arbitrary, but in line with principles previously set out by Natural England, the Government’s independent scientific adviser on nature conservation.

“We have been warning Norfolk County Council for years that this development is likely to have an unacceptable impact on wildlife, and Natural England’s barbastelle bat guidance has been expected for some time.

“The alarming truth is that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. We must ensure that the future prosperity of local communities in Norfolk is advanced in harmony with its wildlife, not damaging it further.”

To read our full letter and co-signed by Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, The Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, RSPB, British Dragonfly Society, Norfolk Rivers Trust and CPRE Norfolk, visit NDR Western Link - Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Header image: woodland set to be destroyed by the Western Link (Jimmy King)

Share this

Top news stories

2024-05-09 Norfolk Wildlife Trust is deli Norfolk Wildlife Trust is delighted to have patronage of His Majesty, The King
Thursday 09 May, 2024
His Majesty, The King has announced his patronage of Norfolk Wildlife Trust following a review of Royal patronages co...
2024-05-08 Come and discover Sweet Briar Come and discover Sweet Briar Marshes!
Wednesday 08 May, 2024
We're delighted to be opening our new Norwich nature reserve this weekend.  The 90-acre wildlife haven sits...
2024-04-10 We've sent a letter to the DEF We've sent a letter to the DEFRA Secretary of State to counter an “ill-advised attack” on Natural England
Wednesday 10 April, 2024
We have today sent a letter to the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, DEFRA Secretary of State.  The correspondence calls...
2024-02-19 Cromer goats join NWT! Cromer goats join NWT!
Monday 19 February, 2024
Twelve rare breed goats are settling into their new life with Norfolk Wildlife Trust after retiring from their conser...
2024-02-09 High-tech cows aid nature cons High-tech cows aid nature conservation at NWT Sweet Briar Marshes
Friday 09 February, 2024
Six rare breed cattle, sporting the latest in grazing technology, have been released at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's ...
2024-02-08 NWT Cley Marshes to host Rober NWT Cley Marshes to host Robert Gillmor retrospective
Thursday 08 February, 2024
Norfolk Wildlife Trust will host a retrospective exhibition of the work of renowned wildlife artist, Robert Gillmor, ...
2024-02-02 Population of UK’s tallest bir Population of UK’s tallest bird hits record-breaking high
Friday 02 February, 2024
Survey results show 2023 was another successful year for the Common Crane, with a record 80 pairs confirmed in the UK...
2024-02-01 National Lottery Heritage Fund National Lottery Heritage Funding to support our new 'Building Foundations for the Future' project
Thursday 01 February, 2024
We are delighted to announce that we have been granted an incredible £241,642 from The National Lottery He...
2024-01-19 UK Government authorises use o UK Government authorises use of bee-killing pesticide for sugar beet
Friday 19 January, 2024
'Emergency' authorisation to use a highly damaging neonicotinoid has today been approved by UK Government, de...
2024-01-04 £210,000 boost for west Norfol £210,000 boost for west Norfolk's wetland wildlife
Thursday 04 January, 2024
Norfolk Wildlife Trust opens the new year with an exciting new project making vital improvements to rare wildlife-ric...
2024-01-04 Our former leader, Brendan Joy Our former leader, Brendan Joyce OBE
Thursday 04 January, 2024
Everyone at Norfolk Wildlife Trust is deeply saddened to hear of the death of former Chief Executive Brendan Joyce OB...
2023-12-08 British Sugar fails to deliver British Sugar fails to deliver on 3-year plan to end use of banned neonicotinoids
Friday 08 December, 2023
Time's up! Minister urged to help sugar farmers go neonic-free and honour ban as deadline approaches to end relia...