George Eustice Resigns
George Esutice, MP for Camborne and Redruth and Farms Minister in Defra since 2013, resigned his ministerial position last week in protest at the Prime Minister allowing a vote in the House of Commons to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected. He believes that any changes to the deal would not be agreed by the EU if the UK asked for a delay rather than leaving without a deal on 29th March.
The unseasonably warm weather in February that broke all previous records has brought signs of spring weeks earlier than usual. Swallows and house martins have been seen in Cornwall, Devon and south Wales, hitching a lift on the ‘Saharan plume’, a warm wind from the south that has brought the high temperatures. Animals such as hedgehogs have come out of hibernation early, trees and hedges are bursting into bud and birds have been seen building nests. A cold spell now, similar to the Beast from the East which we endured at this time a year ago could cause havoc.
Continuing the theme of exceptionally warm weather in late winter and early spring, there were reports of an ‘apocalyptic’ wild fire on Saddleworth Moor in West Yorkshire last week. The fire service said it was one of the largest moorland fires that they had ever had to deal with but it was extinguished fairly quickly. It comes at a time of controversy about the controlled burning of heather on moorland. Some conservationists say that a ban must be imposed whilst others say that the rotational burning encourages new growth which benefits wildlife, sequesters carbon and helps to prevent wild fires. The controversy centres particularly on blanket bog, on which there is a voluntary moratorium on rotational burning with 85% of moorland owners signing up according to the Moorland Association. Moorland owners have been accused of ignoring the moratorium but it only applies to blanket bog and there is heather moorland on other soil types.
Councils sell Farmland
In a move that goes against the need outlined by Jeremy Moody (see main article), the latest survey shows that the area of smallholdings in the UK shrank by 2.8% in the year to March 2018 as County Councils continued to sell farmland. In total, 83,600 hectares of smallholdings was let by 43 councils and authorities. Three councils increased their land holdings, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Central Bedfordshire but only by 188 ha whilst, overall, there were net sales of 2,773 ha.