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Natural England have "lost" 30,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding

We must demand environmental accountability says Steve Yandall. - Self auditing has been compromised
- Misinformation and targets compromised

Says Steve Yandall

A recent report by an independent complaints resolution body regarding the 'loss' of 30,000 of Heritage Lottery funding which had been the result of actions under Natural England's leadership of the HEATH Project stated that within the overall cost of the project the loss was inconsequential and that HLF were not guilty of maladministration.

In my view WRONG!!!

How does this impact on equestrian and foot access?

Natural England justified the need (in their initial application,for funding, under their previous guise of English Nature) for their heathland intervention as partly because of public damage to these sites.Of course erosion and dispoilation does occur but within the context of the application Natural England failed to inform HLF of their own part in heathland degradation through the failure of the ESA scheme and NE's inability to make ESA accountable.

PARTIALITY at the start of this project--YES---and a glimpse of the (intended?) exclusion to follow?

Further to the above NE agreed to comply with BS standards.They failed to do this with resulting exclusion and accidents.

How does this impact on disabled access?

A formal part of the fund application in 1997 was that applicants had to confirm they were to action public agreement and disabled access.The HLF trustees and NE overlooked the need for this confirmation and agreed funding minus these important requirements. The law,during the course of the project, changed and turned what should have been a contractual agreement to gain funding into a legal obligation.(Aarhus and Disability legislation).

As a post implementation justification NE told the complaints review body that surfaces suitable for wheelchair access had been created.NO evidence exists of this and,in fact,cattle would make these surfaces intractable(if those surfaces existed). Mathew Carter of Natural England wrote that it had never been the intention of the project to create disabled access.All evidence points to this being a true appraisal and a confirmation of NE's ignorance of their legal obligations.

Why do I feel the complaint decision was wrong?

This was a self auditing project and was thus reliant on reporting by those with a self interest in not doing so.

This is evidenced by the information on HEATH problems being supplied by members of the public(not auditors) and Natural England claiming the project was complete when,in fact,it overran for 18 months(this was claimed to be exceptional in terms of other projects but how can this be proved?).If the veracity of self auditing was to be redeemed HLF would have been aware WITHOUT public information.

The result of the investigation was based on 30,000 as a 'loss' on the multi million pound project BUT the whole project HAS NOT been subjected to the scrutiny that the four sites selected by Save Penwith Moors have been thus the loss can only be based on monies spent on those 4 areas.

Do other project areas contain similar losses?I would suggest that we will never know. Are HLF suggesting that current law cannot be applied to preexisting contracts or that their assessors should not be mindful of legal changes that confirm what already existed in HLF agreements?

We thus have a situation within which 30,000 has been 'lost',self auditing has been compromised,misinformation(which effected decisions has occurred and the targets of the project are already being compromised(archaeology/access/economy etc).

Maladministration strikes me as a word that fits.

The wider issue,of course,is whether a policy exemplified by a failure to agree to HLF standard procedures of public agreement/disabled awareness in 1997 is indicative of a hidden policy to exclude/erode public access to natural areas and whether,in failing to insist on this,HLF have failed to secure best use of public monies?

Without doubt NE are the creators of a self fulfilling prophecy within which they are channelling the public into a smaller number of 'access' areas thus compounding erosion and justifying further exclusion!

I remind you of the governments chief adviser stating that without public access/participation conservation is not sustainable.

Perhaps NE should listen as closely as the public do?

"I wonder if he thinks it is time to make the case for maladministration to the Parliamentary Ombudsman?"

Says Maureen Comber

I am interested to read Steve Yandall's article on NE. He is right of course and it was ever thus. I wonder if he thinks it is time to make the case for maladministration to the Parliamentary Ombudsman?

Keep up the good work because it is only if the prevarication, and misinformation handed out by local government and government quangos, - which still carry on despite the coalition governments intention to re-organise - can be seen, that we have any hope of progress.

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