Ilkley Moor is a designated national Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is part of the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Conservation Area (SAC) designated under European Directives for its internationally important bird populations and its heathland and blanket bog habitats.
SSSI’s, SPAs and SACS are conservation designations denoting a protected area in the United Kingdom. They are the building blocks of site-based nature conservation legislation. As such the management of these sites follows management prescriptions to maintain those features for what they are designated for and for which they are legally obliged.
SSSI’s are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006.This legislation gives Natural England (NE) powers to ensure protection and management of SSSIs and safeguard their existence into the future.
Management prescriptions are determined by the Joint Nature Conservation Council and enforced by NE (the government’s advisors on nature conservation in England). NE sends all SSSI owners and occupiers a statement of what the ideal management should be. The management of Ilkley Moor works to a plan and is not arbitary.
These management prescriptions form the basis of Bradford Councils ‘Ilkley Moor Management Plan’. See website link below. It is not legal or possible for the FoIM to pursue a different conservation agenda on the moor for the reasons set out above.
Natural England’s current vision for these protected upland landscapes translates into what they will and won’t give consent for and what they prescribe as fundable management actions in the Higher Level Stewardship agreements. Bradford Council has negotiated a 9 year High Level Stewardship Agreement with NE for the maintenance of the moor.
In regards to Ilkley Moor the FoIM are working to maintain the heathland and blanket bog habitats for which it is designated. In general some of this includes controlling the natural development of scrub and trees which would naturally occur on this habitat in the absence of large grazers.
NEs vision is currently being debated and re-examined to some extent (they recently launched their “Vision for the Uplands” in Ilkley) – partly in response to wider issues such as climate change, flood management etc – and that may ultimately mean some changes in management approaches – more trees for example, but that debate has only just begun and certainly hasn’t percolated through to NE’s or DEFRA’s agri-environment schemes or altered their aspirations for the South Pennine Moors SAC/SPA – of which Ilkley is a part.