A recent article in the Shooting Times and Country Magazine and the BASC magazine Shooting and Conservation has prompted this item.
The article, entitled: BASC successfully supports wildfowling clubs in consent and lease negotiations made reference to the Humber estuary, placing it top of a list of success stories for the BASC wildfowling team.
This is totally at odds with the experiences of the clubs and committees dealing with the control and management of wildfowling on the Humber estuary. As such, those wildfowlers involved in this process felt that the article required a response which better reflected what has actually been happening on the Humber.
An article was drafted and sent to Shooting Times but unfortunately, the magazine declined to accept it.
The Humber clubs feel that, as part of a longstanding struggle to preserve wildfowling on the Humber, our recent experiences need to be shared with the wider wildfowling community as a further heads up to the continuing threats to our sport associated with the consenting process.
We have decided to post the unpublished article here on our website for interested parties to read and consider themselves as to whether they feel our experiences are a genuine threat to our sport or not!
We have included links to/previous articles which give the history of the struggle the Humber clubs have faced over the last ten years or more.
We would welcome any comments and/or feedback from the article and would like to hear from any clubs having similar experiences.
Hull & East Riding Wildfowlers’ Association
& on behalf of:
Holderness & Humber Wildfowlers’ Association
Upper Humber Wildfowling Committee
This is the article the shooting press wouldn’t print
Hull & East Riding Wildfowlers’ Association (H&ERWA), Holderness & Humber Wildfowlers’ Association (H&HWA), Upper Humber Wildfowling Committee (UHWC) Response to press article entitled:
BASC successfully supports wildfowling clubs in consent and lease negotiations – September 23 2015
This is written in response to the article in Shooting Times (September 23, 2015) entitled: BASC successfully supports wildfowling clubs in consent and lease negotiations.
On the face of it this appears as a positive story and the wildfowling community should welcome the successful negotiations achieved by the wildfowling clubs and the BASC wildfowling team in ensuring our sport continues. However, there is an underlying story that is not so positive and should be highlighted as cause for concern.
The article starts by listing a number of areas around the country where these successful consent negotiations have been achieved. At the top of that list is the Humber Estuary. The inclusion of the Humber Estuary in this BASC success story is firstly a surprise and secondly, to say the least, has ruffled a lot of feathers.
I am one of the team of people involved in consent negotiations with Natural England (NE) for the only two north bank Humber wildfowling Associations and the UHWC (which represents the north bank and the majority of south bank wildfowling clubs) managing wildfowling activity operating under the UHWC permit scheme.
Between the north bank clubs and the UHWC we manage the majority of wildfowling on the Humber Estuary. In my capacity as a representative for both the wildfowling Associations and the UHWC I am fully aware of what has taken place over recent years during the consenting process.
Over the last ten years or more the Humber clubs have had an uphill struggle to maintain their wildfowling activity on the Humber. We have had to fight every inch of the way during the consenting process. During these times the clubs have found BASC support lacking and on occasions its involvement has even severely jeopardised our activities. These turbulent times and events have been highlighted in previous articles: All eyes on the Humber, (July 2007), The Battle for Wildfowling, (September 2009), The Battle for wildfowling Continues – (The second Front!) June 2011).
Despite our grievances over recent years the clubs have remained affiliated to the BASC and have worked to resolve our differences and rebuild bridges and continue to work closely with the BASC. To this end the BASC remained an integral part of the UHWC with an input into the consenting process.
The Humber clubs and the UHWC have just finalised the most recent wildfowling consent after a very long and protracted process, (circa 18 months!). It is fair to say that as far as the Humber is concerned there is very little cause for celebration. From our perspective it is somewhat disingenuous for the BASC to claim involvement in successful consent negotiations on the Humber. The BASC wildfowling team was initially involved in the submission of the wildfowling Notice of Intent (NOI) and subsequent negotiations on the consent for the UHWC permit scheme. Unfortunately, the resulting consent issued by Natural England (NE) contained unworkable and unacceptable conditions restricting our wildfowling activity to the extent that it threatened the future viability of our clubs.
At the same time, wildfowling consents appertaining to the club’s own freehold and leasehold land being handled by Thyme Consultants on behalf of the north bank clubs, suffered the same unacceptable conditions.
The clubs, the UHWC and the BASC naturally contested these conditions on numerous grounds. Following due process the clubs and the UHWC lodged an appeal to the Secretary of State (SoS) against the NE decisions. This is the second time (first in 2006) that the clubs have had to consider their right of appeal as an option to pursue their wildfowling activity. In the meantime, the clubs applied to DEFRA to hold the appeal process in abeyance while negotiations continued with NE to try and find mutually acceptable conditions and resolution of outstanding issues.
Due to the number and nature of the outstanding issues, prospects for an acceptable resolution looked doubtful. As a last resort, the clubs had to consider pressing the appeal process if all else failed. It was at this stage that the clubs and the UHWC approached the BASC Council through the Chairman of the BASC Wildfowling Liaison Committee. The clubs and the UHWC requested BASC support and assistance if the situation should deteriorate to the point of progressing to an actual appeal.
The response from BASC Council was a refusal to provide financial or staff time in support of an appeal to the SoS based on our grounds for appeal. Any further assistance in negotiations with NE would only be provided if the clubs/UHWC worked solely with the BASC team. In other words if we wanted to receive their support, the involvement of invaluable third party consultants would not be an option for us. We were effectively abandoned by the BASC at the first sign of trouble.
The Council Chairman strongly discouraged any further pursuance of the appeal process; pre judging any outcome stating that it was not a viable option and that the prospect of a successful appeal would be remote in the extreme – an un-winnable situation! This begs the question; what is the point of having a right of appeal as part of the consenting process? This response was even more bizarre considering that when the UHWC consent conditions were contested by the BASC, the same grounds on which it disputed the NE decisions were included in our grounds for appeal. Additionally, other correspondence from the Chairman highlighted a number of points of concern that were to be discussed by the BASC Chairman and Chief Executive with NE going forward. These same issues were also identified in our grounds for appeal!
The clubs and the UHWC were left to fight on alone without BASC support. The clubs had to operate for the full 2013/14 season under the restrictive conditions of the consent while negotiations continued with NE. After numerous extensions to the appeal deadline to allow more negotiation time, new notices were drawn up and submitted in time for new consents to be in place for the 2015 season.
The outcome was the avoidance of an appeal, and a new conditioned consent, which although far from ideal allows the clubs to continue wildfowling and remain viable, at least in the short term.
The clubs have been left to resolve their outstanding issues with NE out with the appeal process. As far as the BASC’s involvement, or lack of, in this process, the members yet again feel that they have been let down and question what they pay their membership fees for. The perception is that the BASC has no will to fight for wildfowling. The clubs will be requesting a visit from senior staff from BASC to explain to the membership the reasoning behind their decisions and to demonstrate whose side they are actually on!
So, you may now appreciate why a lot of Humber wildfowlers have taken exception to the article with BASC claiming a success story on the Humber.
The BASC may argue that the statement in the article is correct as I understand that they did successfully negotiate a consent renewal for Alkborough Wildfowlers which is a small club of about 20 members shooting along the banks of the Trent and Ouse. These are rivers running into the estuary but as consent comes within the jurisdiction of the Humber Estuary SSSI, they may feel justified in including it here.
The more important message here is that Humber Estuary wildfowling continues to be under serious threat and that this threat may not stop at the Humber. NE’s issues with disturbance and direct take (mortality) associated with wildfowling will come back to bite us all. These are issues (along with others) that need to be addressed at a national level by organisations such as the BASC. Not left to individual clubs with limited resources to fight. Considering the areas historical importance to the BASC and wildfowling in general, we would like to think that our ‘umbrella’ association would be prepared to stand up in our defence which in turn would be in the best interests of all wildfowling. NE has applied a blanket approach to time limiting consents (5 years) on the Humber and considering it has taken ~ 18 months to reach this latest consent, it does not leave a lot of time before we have to face the whole process all over again – the question is; next time around, can we expect the support from the BASC that we pay for and have a real success story on the Humber? Unfortunately, our experience to date leaves us with big doubts!
We did it Alone!! Press releases