18 November 1999
SSSI fines must be ‘last resort’ — NFU

By FWi staff

INCREASED fines for damaging Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) must only be used as a last resort, says the National Farmers Union.

This plea followed yesterdays Queens Speech which gave notice of the governments intention to improve the protection of SSSIs.

While details will not be confirmed until the new year, English Nature, the governments conservation watchdog, is hoping to see the maximum £5000 fine per offence increased to £20,000.

Dr Andrew Clark of the NFU told the BBC: “Running alongside protective measures I want to see assurances that they will be used as a last resort where there is no other course of action.”

He said a distinction had to be made between different types of damage.

“Im concerned that we should distinguish between deliberately damaging acts and those which happen over a period of time and are purely down to advice to manage the site or the economic rationale to manage the site.”

Dr Clark called for targeted incentive payments and management agreements to improve SSSIs. He said there must be positive incentives to ensure a site was a real asset rather than something imposed on farmers.

There are more than 4000 SSSIs covering more than 1 million hectares