Cuts will destroy rarest habitats in Britain, warn conservationists

A A A

Catherton Common reverberates with the distinctive song of skylarks. It boasts stunning views over the Shropshire countryside and is one of the most valuable spots for plants anywhere in Britain.



Just two years ago, its huge botanical diversity and nationally important populations of adders and other struggling native reptiles were under threat of disappearing. The farmers putting animals to graze the land were on the verge of giving up and the common would have deteriorated into scrubland with their departure.

The Shropshire Wildlife Trust determined to save the rare landscape from a damaging decline and bought the 527-acre common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, to keep grazing going.

To buy the land in the Clee Hills, the trust was reliant on money provided by the aggregates levy sustainability fund, a scheme which has just been scrapped by the Government in a move that wildlife organisations have warned will make it far harder to protect the natural environment.

Until the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs decided to axe it as part of its cost-cutting programme, the fund provided £35m a year to reduce the environmental impacts of the aggregates industry as it dug sand, rock and gravel from the ground. Now the money, while still being collected as part of the aggregates levy as an environmental tax, will go straight into the Treasury's coffers.

John Hughes, of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said the loss of the fund will damage the ability of environmental groups to protect the landscape: "We weren't happy to hear the fund was disappearing. [It] has done so much environmental good to a county like Shropshire which has a lot of aggregate sites. The fund was addressing the blight that comes with aggregates extraction."

Seventy of the county's quarries qualified for payments from the fund. Of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust's 38 nature reserves, more than half contain or are next to disused quarries.

The Wildlife Trusts are urging the Government to reinstate the fund. As part of their efforts to win support, all 47 are writing to MPs in their areas.

Stephanie Hilborne, the Trusts' chief executive, said: "It's a familiar story about reducing... the size of the voluntary sector at a time when our challenges have never been greater. Investment in the environment is one of the best long-term investments you can make for society."

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before