DEFRA has today, June 8, confirmed that there will be an independent evidence review into the management of protected sites on Dartmoor.

David Fursdon, an experienced industry figure based in Devon, has accepted the position of chair and will lead the review alongside a small panel of experts. David is currently chair of the institute for agricultural and horticulture, working to improve advice support and training across farming.

He is also chair of Dyson Farming and has had numerous roles across farming, environment and land use throughout his career as well as involvement in his own family farm.

The government is committed to supporting farmers and those living and working on the moor to join together to safeguard the long-term management of the moors, in particular the areas with greatest environmental value.

The panel will work with local farmers and stakeholders and will draw on the best available evidence to provide an independent perspective on the management of the protected sites on the moor.

The review will:

• examine the existing ecological evidence base to consider the current management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) across Dartmoor to determine why some sites are seeing improvements and others are not, and how lessons might be applied across all sites on Dartmoor;

• review any lessons learned from previous approaches on Dartmoor or similar situations by examining comparable case-studies;

• make recommendations as to the most effective grazing and management regime(s) that would deliver improvements on the SSSI sites across Dartmoor so they can maintain or achieve favourable condition whilst also balancing the long-term and sustainable delivery of other priorities such as agricultural production, public access and cultural and natural heritage; and

• advise what is needed to support delivery of that regime consistent with existing legally binding targets and statutory duties, with a particular focus on those sites that are currently not recovering or in favourable condition.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “I’d like to thank David Fursdon for agreeing to chair this important independent review.

“The review will help us identify how we can deliver much-needed environmental improvements on Dartmoor while supporting other priorities such as agricultural production, public access and cultural and natural heritage.”

David Fursdon, Chair of the review said: “I am delighted to be Chairing this independent review and I look forward to fully engaging with all stakeholders involved in the management of Dartmoor.

“The review will report in the autumn and help inform the environmental schemes and protected site management across Dartmoor.

“While the review is ongoing, Natural England, working with Defra and the Rural Payment Agency, has confirmed it will limit changes to current environmental agreements.

“Specifically, taking account of the environmental risks, it will only ask for immediate changes to stocking regimes on a minority of sites where the severity of the risk is such that it poses an immediate threat to the longer term recovery of the ecology of the Site of Special Scientific Interest.”

This approach will create space for the results of the review to be considered before farmers and Natural England work together to agree the longer-term nature of those schemes and site management and will also allow farming systems to adapt to any changes needed.

Dave Slater, South West Regional Director for Natural England said: “Natural England welcomes this review as an important step for the future recovery of the natural habitats on Dartmoor.

“Our long-term joint approach with Dartmoor farmers to protect and enhance these habitats needs to be based on a shared understanding of the evidence that will inform how we can have a future where nature and farming can thrive together.”

The panel will work with local farmers and stakeholders and will draw on the best available evidence to provide an independent perspective on the management of the protected sites on the moor.