Scientists to walk out in wildlife centre row

A A A

Environmental scientists have threatened to hold a virtually unheard-of mass demonstration over proposals to close Britain's three leading wildlife research centres.

Researchers at the Winfrith, Dorset station of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), which faces the axe along with sister stations at Monk's Wood, Cambridgeshire, and Banchory in Scotland, are planning a "day of action" next week, when they will take a co-ordinated day's leave from their own duties and instead carry out voluntary work for the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Their planned demo is an indication of swelling opposition to the closures, which were highlighted in The Independent last month, and which proved an embarrassment for Tony Blair on Wednesday in the House of Commons. Mr Blair was taunted by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, for the fact that one of his junior ministers, Jim Knight from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), had written a letter to him protesting at the closures and asking the Prime Minister to intervene - which Mr Blair refused to do.

Now the Tories are looking to push the closure threat even further up the political agenda with visits to some of the threatened laboratories from senior Conservatives. Next Monday, the shadow Environment minister, Greg Barker, will visit the Winfrith centre, and later in the week Peter Ainsworth and Alan Duncan, shadow Secretaries of State for Environment and Trade and Industry, will be visiting the research station at Monk's Wood.

Mr Duncan is joining Mr Ainsworth because the Department of Trade and Industry controls the science budget, the ultimate source of funding for the CEH centres.

The funds are distributed by the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), and it is the decision of the Nerc council to cut back on funding for CEH which has prompted the plans to close the centres, and to sack 200 of the CEH scientific staff.

Mr Ainsworth said last night: "Our aim is to prevent the closures and get those involved to think again. The work the CEH centres do is of immense value in our understanding of biodiversity, and in the context of the concerns about climate change it is of even more importance. Closing them is utterly ridiculous."

His opinion is remarkably similar to that of Labour's Mr Knight, the minister responsible for wildlife, who told Mr Blair in his letter that the closures did not make sense scientifically or economically, at a local or a national level. The Environment minister, Elliot Morley, revealed in the House of Commons yesterday that Defra itself had joined in the Nerc consultation on the future of the laboratories - strongly implying that the Government's green ministers are joining the calls for a rethink.

The day of action at Winfrith is being planned by the union Prospect; about 80 per cent of the Winfrith staff are Prospect members. The Prospect section secretary, Bill Beaumont, said: "This is not a strike, but our members will be taking a day's leave, and we will go and help a conservation group with scrub clearance and fencing. We simply want to highlight the Nerc consultation process, and try and encourage all local stakeholders to write in to it."

News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Sport
bottom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee