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Environmental campaigners picketed the headquarters of government-backed Natural England in Sheffield yesterday to protest against taxpayers’ cash being used to fund the burning of moorland.
The campaigners — armed with symbolic mops, buckets and placards demanding: “Don’t fund flooding” — warned that burning moorland to make it suitable for grouse-rearing and shooting contributed to the flooding which has devastated valleys beneath the moors.
Some protesters were from the West Yorkshire Pennine town of Hebden Bridge, which in June 2012 was devastated by floods after water poured down roads and tracks from moorland above the town.
The campaigners said that moorland burning above the community contributed to the fast run-off of water during heavy rain.
Following the floods locals launched a Ban the Burn campaign.
Supporter Jim Peterken said: “Millions of pounds of public money is currently paid out as ‘stewardship’ to grouse-moor owners who are burning on blanket bog.
“As well as being detrimental to a designated priority habitat, this form of moorland management decreases the ability of the peat to store the water, and the bare ground increases run-off.
“The general public may be interested in the issue that our hard-earned public tax is being paid to rich landowners to flood us.”
The campaigners pointed out that grouse moor owners are being paid millions of pounds through the environmental stewardship scheme to protect the uplands.
Recent research by South West Water showed that restoring blanket bogs can reduce flood risk downstream.
Police were called to yesterday’s demonstration.
Protester Sue Turner added: “Management at Natural England told staff not to report to work because of the protest. They completely over-reacted.”
The protesters handed in a letter telling Natural England that action on reducing run-off from the uplands is urgent to minimise flood risk downstream.
It said burning on blanket bog should be banned and that stewardship funding should promote the restoration of blanket bog, not their degradation.
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