Scientists to walk out in wildlife centre row


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."

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam