Monday, 31 October 2011

A Tale of Two Years

Last year, 2010

















Second, this year, 2011















Clicking on the images will give a better view. I'm aware that the small number of images could be seen as selected to display a certain point of view, (not something that local conservation officers would ever dream of doing of course). I'm doing the best I can to correct that temptation by uploading a more varied collection of photos, with each image larger, which can be accessed via the links below .

2010, when the moor was not grazed with farm cattle.

2011, during a period of cattle grazing.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Going Soon


We've resented it all those years it's been here. Will we miss it when it's gone? It would be perverse but not unusual. Some time in the coming months the gangs will arrive to take it all away. Apparently some form of collaboration wth Natural England will accompany the removal. I somehow doubt that there will be much sensitivity about the operation.
One older regular on Blacka said he thought it all a waste of money. But when pressed he said he never walked along the path above the gorge or near Lenny Hill. Nor had he seen the teams of tree fellers who come periodically to maintain the power line route. That didn't prevent him expressing his opinion.

Alone


It's the young stags that one feels sympathy for at this time of year. In scattered herds older males gather a group of hinds around them and the young calves seem to be able to stay with the group. And in spring and summer the groups of stags are of various ages so they're not short of companionship. Autumn is a time when the unattached stags can be seen wandering solitary around the hills and woods thinking about what they are missing.

Icarus Sunk


Any doubts as to the future management intentions of Sheffield Wildlife Trust will have been dispelled by observing this week’s RAG meeting. They wish to have no proper discussion between FoBM and other non SWT users of Blacka about the fundamental strategy. They wish to continue doing just what they have been up to so far. If anyone had hopes that we would see a turning back from farm management with farm livestock and an emphasis on a more natural landscape they will be sorely disappointed. The scepticism of FoBM will be confirmed but not with any sense of satisfaction.

2006’s Icarus outcome had appeared to be that SWT would manage with cattle grazing for 5 years with the clear assumption that the alternative would happen afterwards. Now SWT has abandoned its original assurance that a consultation would happen on what comes next. They now claim that Sheffield Moors Partnership are to produce a Master Plan and that it would be no use SWT consulting until that’s agreed. This means that alongside their own private negotiations with NE over Higher Level agri environment grants, input from local people will be emasculated. At the RAG this week the advisory role of the Reserve Advisory Group was interpreted as “We SWT will advise you what we are going to do on a strictly timed agenda. There may be time for the odd question” Discussion was strictly ruled out even to the extent of going down the post-it note route to avoid unwelcome debate and scrutiny. There you have a new definition of an Advisory Group. While most people would have no doubts that an advisory group would have a role in advising an organisation, SWT intend words and phrases to mean what they want. The advisory group here is a group of people brought together so that managers can have an opportunity to advise some of the public as to what they intend to do.

So many surprises.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Repose



The best mornings are still when clear autumn skies come with patches of mist. Deer have been active out on the moor overnight while the cattle were at rest. Seven hinds and calves were with the stag. Before sunrise three of them had decided to lie down in the thick shrubbery, later to be disturbed as the cows roused themselves and made their way across the moor. Other stags were around and also a hind and calf on their own well away from the main group enjoying the warmth of the new day.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Contrasts


Weather conditions, time of day, give different colour perspectives to life on the moor. Mornings can be dazzling and colourful but just as likely be drab and washed out. Midday has fewer extremes and more chance of an even light.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Empires New

The editors here take no credit/responsibility for the content below which we have only agreed to include to commemorate a) the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Private Eye and b) the coming departure of a local figure and his winning of a part share in a Sheffield Telegraph Environment Award to hasten him on his way.

This is a guest contribution from Private Eye’s very own poet E J Thribb (17½)

So. Farewell then,
Director Nige
Or is it Chief Exec.?
Something like that.
What years those were
What empires built …
And bu***red up
Now let’s bu**er off
To pastures/empires new and bu**er up some more.

(Contd p. 94)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Priorities

Side by side but with quite different priorities.


Grooming.


Eating.

No gender stereotyping there, then.



More scenes.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

As It Should Be


You have to pinch yourself when watching some scenes in the regenerated wildness of Blacka's best parts - then say slowly that this was over managed grouse moor and is now a paradise for wildlife. Then say even more slowly that there are institutions and charities with managers who want to take it back to more managed land, more like farmland and more like the grouse moor that it was.

The deer have now begun to reclaim parts of the hillside. Hormones have a lot to do with it. The hinds were always down below in the woods and to get to them the stags have needed to overcome their reluctance to patronise the land occupied by smelly and defecating cattle.



This is The Baron, not the same stag as the one on Lenny Hill with two hinds a couple of days ago. The tines at the crown give him away. Today there were six accompanying him including two just months old, born in the woods below. Their faces are hard to resist, threatening to turn even the most hardened of us into sentimental fools. But this is as it should be. Natural beauty wins all arguments.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Obfuscation and Interpretation

Further thoughts about the papers obtained through Freedom of Information requests concerning Sheffield Moors Partnership: Action Planning, Terms of Reference and Vision Statement ('2025 Vision')

I’ve now spent a longer time looking at it all. Too long: there’s pain associated with it and my bones keep telling me there’s something unhealthy going on. But I'm now reaching some conclusions about this Sheffield Moors Partnership as they call themselves and about what they are up to. You have to make the effort to get inside the minds of those who, with a straight face, are motivated to put documents like this together. And taking at face value is not really an option, not after seeing the odd ways in which the process has been steered and spun.

The first conundrum is working out how intentional is the blurring and baffling around the name. How many have been struggling with a misconception that S.M.P. was much the same as the E.M.P – Eastern Moors Partnership, which was given the lease on the Eastern Moors. The assumption would be that E.M.P. and S.M.P. were blood brothers each of them created by a consortium of RSPB and National Trust. S.M.P. would be getting the lease on Burbage, Houndkirk etc.

But the Terms of Reference suggest it’s mistaken to think this is what S.M.P. is. It’s not that kind of setup at all; it’s a different creature entirely, not a lessee or tenancy/manager of the land but a kind of pact of convenience between all local conservation groups. Somewhere within it sits an understanding that NT/RSPB will get this land but the SMP talked about here is not the same as that. Confused? Perhaps we’re meant to be. E.M.P…S.M.P.? What’s going on? Are they doing something rather stupid or are they actually trying to be too clever, or both? Once organizations make claims to be transparent and then proceed to obfuscate then you suspect they have identified some advantage in confusion marketing (cf train tickets and energy contracts)

So just what is SMP and what is it trying to do?
Without a precise definition from the guilty parties themselves, the best answer I can come up with so far is this:
The SMP is a kind of Alliance of Similar Self-Serving Interests, or to put it another way, a Treaty for Mutual Support and Defence among the numerous arms of the local conservation industry. A Coalition of All the Villains.
According to their Terms of Reference they aim:
To have a clear terms of reference to deliver collective outcome, including clarity of labour, roles and remit.
As for clear, I’m lost already. Other aims:
To be made up of delivery agents (core group) and supported by key stakeholders as required.

This Core Group is made up of
Peak District National Park Authority
RSPB
National Trust
Sheffield Wildlife Trust
Sheffield City Council
Natural England

To support one another in difficult and contentious issues, offering advice and if possible a partnership view.
To resolve ‘local’ issues by working together, using similar practices and approaches, so creating the greater sum of our parts
(??)

They pledge to back each other up in the face of anticipated challenges when their respective plans are shown to be increasingly untenable in coming years as people get to be more critical. The idea is to make sure there’s no difference of view. How it might work is this: no individual group or organization will be solely responsible for policy which will be ‘industry-wide’. When one organization is tested, challenged or in dispute with local people or user groups, a collective response is put in the public domain, maybe in the form of press release or letter to local newspaper goes out. This will be very reassuring for outfits like Sheffield Wildlife Trust who will be grateful for publicly expressed support. All this will be on the basis of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’. It will also make it more of a problem for any public groups or other annoying local people who want to try to get answers to questions or hold organizations to account. That is crucial because it distances the faltering organization from direct accountability.

It could be compared with the BBA, the British Bankers Association whose Chief Executive, Angela Knight, gets wheeled out to defend the indefensible whenever banks are (so unfairly?) criticized.

This defensive role and the pledges to agree approaches will serve to encourage similar intervention strategies. If this agreed methodology favoured laissez faire management and trusting natural processes and regenerations then there might be some virtue in some kind of collaboration. But when the approach is along the lines that these groups favour with constant intervention to stop nature doing what it wants this will mean more landscape homogenization, promoting more management leading to less visible diversity while fraudulently claiming to deliver ‘goods’ in the form of biodiversity.

It would not do for example if one group went out on a limb and developed an alternative or radical method because that could make others pursuing the establishment approach feel insecure. So for ‘exemplar’ management quoted passim read conventional management. This will be essentially anti-competitive, one size fits all, putting a stranglehold on innovation or radical ways forward.

This leaves us where we started some time ago unable to avoid the conclusion that this whole process is a matter of administrative empire building by charities and public service departments acting similar to participants in a cartel.

To think that suspicion is unjustified you would have to explain exactly why there is so much that is calculatedly misleading about the language.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Seen and Unseen


Sometimes it seems as if certain people would like this splendid path to be "well-maintained", managed to look cared for as in a garden or park. They may be those who object strongly if their clothing gets wet from the bracken and overhanging trees. Or the uneven path surface with protruding rocks and tree roots.

Among the many beauties of wilder land are the things you don’t see unless you’re really looking for them. There are so many places for wild animals to hide away from human gaze. We had walked along this path earlier and at the time had been looking at other things.



He may have been there or he may not but even this time we could have missed seeing the largest native animal we have. His stillness showed he was aware that if he remained as he was we might not see him. If we can easily walk past these animals and fail to see them how much more of a refuge the wild land must be for other creatures.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Enough is Enough

Following on from the previous post, Enough, and on a similar theme, I report another conversation with a conservation officer, this time about the sheep pasture on Blacka. Doesn’t the despoiled look of this grazed land pinpoint the absurdity of the conservation management approach, said I? I explained that difficulties with the grazier last year left the land free from sheep and cattle for months on end and the result was a fine display of wild flowers. But this year sheep in their hundreds were back and the result is no flowers, simply acre upon acre covered with sheep sh*t. Doesn’t this show that conservation grazing and conservation management is totally ‘up the spout’? His answer to this was one I’ve heard before from those who need to get out more, being indoctrinated through too much exposure to industry dogma, and it goes thus: the sheep are necessary to create the conditions for the wild flowers and that proves they are doing their job properly and the management is on the right lines. Almost certainly it’s an answer he is reporting from one that he’s heard given by a fellow traveller or on a course somewhere. Once again, flawed office thinking, flawed bureaucrat planning with complete disconnection from the real world where the grass grows and sheep crap. Do they ever walk in these places, and if they do is it with eyes wide shut?
To promote the conditions for beautiful wild flowers to grow, this theory goes, you must saturate the area with sheep and their faeces so that they will crop all the grass and eat all the flowers. And you must do this all the time, every year! When you point out that this means nobody will ever see the wild flowers unless there’s a serious and unforeseen malfunction in the grazing programme so it’s pointless, they say simply that they disagree or, tellingly, they remain silent. For in neither the management plans nor the SSSI reports and designations is there any scope for leaving sheep off the land. I confess that on one level I find this utterly delightful– it completely vindicates my view that conservation people are either stupid or not of this world at all – i.e. office zombies.

One of the more determined claims made for putting sheep on this land is that it benefits the ‘fungal interest’. Now I rather like the waxcaps mushrooms. They are a lot more worth looking at than the sheep s*** that is the only other feature on the ground. Only since the recent rain have they appeared this year. The trouble is that much of the pleasure in seeing them is seriously diminished by the amount of the, er, other material that is around and the lack of natural vegetation near them. The grass in which I found them is not identical with a cricket pitch but it’s just as artificial. Appropriately, of the five waxcaps I found in a close area, three had sheep **** actually deposited on top of them. Over the years I've asked several times that the sheep be removed for a period of time before the mushrooms appear, only to be met with blank looks.



The fungi that are benefiting more than most are the dung mushrooms.


I await the information from the Rural Payments Agency that will tell me how much of our sorely stretched public funds are going into the annual grazing programme approved by Natural England to conserve the conditions favourable for this unit, unit 70, of the SSSI. And please, no more alternative wordings for the SSSI acronym; enough is enough.

Enough



Speaking with one of the local conservation officers recently I realised that our different points of view were so entrenched that there was just no coming together at all. Those who try to bring about consensus (such as the growing tribe of professional facilitators) would have torn down their flip charts and tearfully gone off to seek counselling. It’s no surprise that I consider I was right and naturally he thinks he was. The major obstacle for him is that he saw his view as solidly backed up by a well established consensus in which he works – something that can only be shaken by a seismic cultural upheaval. Mine is simply the result of direct and regular observation.

Nevertheless I’ve reconsidered my position and then tried hard to think from his, and it simply doesn’t work. Each time I step out onto the ground the nonsense of the cosy conformity confronts me again and I have to conclude that life seen from the office by those who dwell in offices is subject to collective delusion, if not hallucination.

We’re talking about a position that looks remarkably like dogma born of ideology. And we’re back with what’s been the theme of this blog from the start – management. Obviously it’s no shocking revelation that people who are managers will think that managing is necessary. My point is: – not everywhere, and particularly not in areas of land which should be allowed to ‘be themselves’. Is that a dogmatic position? I don’t think so. It’s as if one of the early quack medico-entrepreneurs had decided to travel the country prescribing aspirin for every condition known. But these conservation managers have somehow convinced one another and some others beside that our countryside is, has been and ever more must remain ‘a managed countryside’ in its entirety. Management for them is the ‘wonder drug’ for the whole English countryside, whether it be your local park, the arable farm along the valley and the dairy farm next door, the grounds of each stately home and the mountains and moors that occupy large portions of the landscape. Prescribed and taken regularly after meals it will cure all problems. And don’t forget, folks, it’s on the National Health – CAP subsidised giving comfortable employment for all dispensers. This opinion has been beefed up into a doctrinal view which we hear all the time with very little change even in the vocabulary. One can only assume this became establishment policy at the behest of those whose Vested Interests have the ear of the boards and committees of Natural England and the National Park Authorities. Perhaps those very VIs actually sit on those boards. (Scope for more research there.)


But did this management ideology at the point of its adoption get a full public examination or was it deemed to have received that favourite tool of the status quo – a stakeholder consultation? Nobody who looks at or listens to coverage of wildlife and countryside matters on the BBC can fail to notice this. The land manager in a National Park never misses an opportunity to come out with it – this countryside that you all love he parrots, wouldn’t be like this if men had not created it like this – implying and even stating that the consequence of going away and leaving it for a while would not be worth contemplating. No less than ecological disaster presumably! But wouldn’t ecological disaster be a fair working definition of a grouse moor?

Deep and Resonant



He had sounded in good voice as we walked up through the birch woods. Minutes earlier the dark valley had been echoing with resonances similar to the starting of a powerful motor bike. But there was more than one sound. As we got closer and he saw us he vanished into the bracken only visible later on after careful scrutiny. No hinds to be seen and the reason was apparent when other impressive sounds came up from further south. This fellow was only a hopeful candidate. The Baron was elsewhere.

Impressing



Who is it more important to impress? When he throws back his head and projects his voice towards the sky for maximum carry is it mostly to throw out a challenge to rivals nearby? Or is it to attract the females? The group of six accompanying him contain at least two young born this year along with the mature hinds. They are now roaming more across the higher parts than previously, as though the extra testosterone is demanding he seeks out a rival to demonstrate his superiority. By dawn any battles may have been fought and in the grey light there is a general trend to return to the wooded parts.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Tree Decoration



It's a job best left to somebody else I think especially when it comes to lights. But the thrushes have their own novel idea and seem aware of the need for symmetry.
Fieldfares are racing around Blacka today in large flocks. Admirable energy and with a keen eye for the red berries.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Baron


Through the dense mist he stood much as he did last year when I named him Baron of Blacka. He is largely unknown to the media so not worried by fears of competition from the 'Beast of Bushy' down in the over-populated south, and he may never have heard of the Emperor of Exmoor (deceased). These stag stories in the autumn papers will probably now become a regular seasonal feature along with the World Conker Championships.

There were hinds and accompanying young nearby and further off a rival stag moved away quickly as we walked past. Unlike the Bushy situation this is a landscape fit for wild animals largely self-regenerated over many years and all the better for that. Though we know people who would like to be able to say it's this way because man made it so. The pity of it all is that year by year it is returning to a more managed state. It will take some explaining away, the story of this year. The deer who were so much in residence all last year and the early part of this have been marginalised to the extent of being rarely seen at all from the moment that the farm animals arrived. Even in the present season, normally of most activity, you will have been lucky to see them at all and then most likely in the woods and the woodland edges. Yet months ago we were seeing herds of some size browsing where ever since the cattle have been in boring and extravagatingly defecating occupation. An alternative explanation would have to relate to their avoiding people on the assumption that they were hiding up during the day and coming out at night. There's always been an element of that of course but I'm not aware of a huge increase in numbers of visitors here which seem roughly comparable with the last two years. Hinds have been always more secretive with good cause and they have been present all year well hidden in the dense rewilded areas where young can be safer than anywhere in the whole region. That is why the stags are now more in evidence. Let's hope the farm livestock are taken off soon to allow the deer to reclaim the natural landscape that is their heritage.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Subsidy Anyone?

What is the purpose of farm payments and subsidies? Some of us thought that it was all about ensuring that production of food is a good deal for those working on the land which in turn leads to a continuous supply in the shops.

It has been complicated by the tendency for some farmers to over produce often by cutting corners and leading to industrial scale over-exploitation of the land. So to stop them they are offered sweeteners which say, for instance, leave that corner alone or don’t root out that hedge and we’ll compensate you for what you could have got.

This becomes crazy when you apply it to publicly owned non-agricultural land. Back in 2005/6 when people began discussing Sheffield Wildlife Trust’s plan to put cattle on Blacka there were a number of RAG meetings and a facilitated consultation which extended over 7 months. One of the things the opponents brought up was that doing this turned the land into farm land which at that time it was not. This was roundly denied by SWT’s supporters though it seems interesting in hindsight that SWT themselves were fairly muted about that preferring to let their followers speak for them. They have in fact never been keen to talk about this. They are a private organisation after all and disclosure doesn’t come naturally.

Some of that information is now available and can be published here. The first thing to say is that what was said in 2005/6 was already out of date. Blacka already was agricultural land and had been since 2002 when the Countryside Stewardship Agreement was signed. That was not made at all clear, but as we should know, one of the techniques of management is to keep key information close to your chest..

Each year SWT now claims funds from farm and agri–environmental schemes. It would be nice if this was transparent and if it was a simple arrangement. Some of us naively thought before looking into it that the Single Farm Scheme meant that you put cattle on the land and that made it farm land and you were given cash according to the number of hectares and perhaps the number of cattle. But that’s to reckon without character of bureaucracies which tend to complexity. Anyway the payments made to SWT by the Rural Payments Agency over the last 5 years have been
2005…..£520
2006…..£845
2007…..£745
2008…..£950
2009….. SWT seem to have forgotten to submit a claim
2010…..£4,988

These may not be huge sums but they should be put alongside Countryside Stewardship money which is paid from Natural England. There is also separate money for Single Farm Scheme which is paid to the grazier for putting sheep on the pasture land. One should also bear in mind that in combination, presumably with other land sites that SWT manage, they get more than £12,000 from the Rural Payments Agency. They are also constantly seeking out other funding opportunities from organisations such as the Forestry Commission and various polluting industries that pay to gain environmental brownie points by arrangement with NE by offsetting their dirty work elsewhere.

The most intriguing thing here challenges our understanding that the cattle grazing was linked to Single Farm Payments and Countryside Stewardship Agreement moneys. We’ve already mentioned the fact that CSA money was paid even in years where they broke the agreement.

In 2008 and 2010 there were no cattle on the moor yet more SFS money was claimed and paid than in other years. In 2010 for example £4,988 Single Farm payments were claimed and also £4,543 CSA when there was an understanding that this money was being paid on condition that cattle were grazed.

Whatever you make of the amounts and the years there can be no doubt that this part of the moors is now firmly agricultural land, having survived for many years developing its own character as an independent entity.

And we can’t wait to hear SWT tell us what a brilliant job the cattle are doing against all sorts of criteria.

Back to Weather

Real weather in England is about change. There was plenty of change this morning. That's not been the case for months. Not continuous sun, but dry stream beds and dry footpaths. This stream can be a torrent but has been just dry stones from July on.The gentle flow today was welcome.



Cattle have left their mark on the bank.

We started with drizzle and layers of mist, then the growing light revealed the crooked spire leaning into the prevailing wind.



As if to insist that autumn should be about colour, after yesterday's post, the sun then went too far and with the dark sky behind turned all into a stage garden, challenging our sense of real.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Styles


Not all native trees join the fashion for vibrant autumn colour. We're all guilty of emphasising the bronzes and oranges displayed by beech and oak and birch. But washed-out can also be effective. Ash and elder contribute in ways of their own.

Dangerous animals

It was at one of the meetings in Totley last year (euphemistically called consultation meetings) for the Eastern Moors Partnership that farmers called for a cull to be made of the wild deer. They were quoting vastly inflated numbers since adjusted down considerably by EMP. One of their key arguments was that they were a danger on the roads and it’s certainly true that deer can jump fences with ease and are large animals. An impact at speed can result in serious injury and worse for the motorist – though it’s rare people consider the animal which never voted for the party that decided to have the road built. At the time I suggested a cull of sheep would be more proportional based on my personal observations. To put some statistical backing to my claim I’ve asked the local police to give me figures of reports made to them by the public of deer and other animals on the roads.
There are two police forces involved. One is South Yorks Police and the other is Derbyshire Constabulary and because of the different ways they keep records I’ve kept the information separate. The incidents I’ve looked at relate to road around the Eastern Moors and Burbage.
From South Yorks Police the reports listed of animals on the roads over two years are as follows:

Cows 14
Sheep 31
Dogs 4
Deer 1

From Derbyshire Constabulary over one year the figures are

Cows 8
Sheep 10
Dogs 1
Deer 2
Badger 2

As can be seen from this the chances of your hitting a cow are some 7 times more likely and a sheep some 13 times more likely than a deer. Nevertheless I would recommend that anyone driving on these roads should moderate their speeds especially at night.

Some interesting snippets from the information: One report mentioned a swan and another reported a pheasant on Bramall Lane! Another report from close to the city wa of a duck and ducklings on Duchess Road.

It’s probable that we didn’t need to scour these reports to conclude that any claims from farmers should be listened to with some scepticism. They are in the forefront alongside the conservation industry in shouting that all our countryside must be managed or there will be some kind of catastrophe, (God help us). If you were really keen to exterminate wild deer and anxious to get evidence to back up your prejudice you would be tempted to point to the Bushey Park herd. But you would then have to explain that behaviour in the completely different surroundings of a walled in park with large numbers of visitors getting close up would be automatically replicated in the wide open spaces out here. Nobody has yet suggested excluding cows from the countryside despite regular deaths caused by attacks on walkers. On Blacka now you're less likely to be charged by a stag than slip on a cowpat and break your neck.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Friends and Cronyism



A group from Friends of Blacka Moor went along to the Lord Mayor’s Reception for Friends Groups at Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday. We decided it could be a good opportunity to meet and talk to Council officers who were involved in one way or another in meetings with Sheffield Moors Partnership. Friends Groups are mainly engaged with urban parks and have been set up in a semi-official way, typically groups of local people pretty fed up with run down facilities and poor standards of maintenance in what should be at the heart of their neighbourhood. The council in the way that councils do has in many cases absorbed them into their institution and embedded them into a strategy which makes hands on work contracted out to volunteers while their own employees are largely deskbound.
FoBM was never one of these groups. Yes we pick up litter as and when we see it but our main activity relates to trying to get the management vandals to see sense and stop ruining an area that had become an exceptional natural site. If we go along with SWT’s volunteer programme they would have us helping them cut down birch trees, and patrol around counting cattle and doubtless polishing their barbed wire and sending in emergency messages to their HQ when one of their several thousand notices loses a staple in the top left corner.

At the meeting there was a certain amount of predictable cheerleader stuff. What a grand job you volunteers are all doing. What a lot of money you have saved and brought in for the council. Let’s hear it for the hard working inadequately resourced parks staff, rangers Parks department officers etc. (cue applause).

It was helpful to have the chance to tell Paul Billington the new Director of Culture and Environment that the decision to hive off Burbage is too important to be left to a Cabinet who know very little about the issues advised by dodgy reports from officers who have no scepticism gene. And that consultations should happen before any such decision is considered and that they should start with a blank sheet – definitely not run by Sheffield Moors Partnership after they’ve already been promised the land.

I also talked with SCC officers who were at the SMP Action Planning junket. This gave some idea of the mindset among the local officers. Most if not all their information must come from other like organisations and their personnel. Gathering together in such matey situations creates a tendency to cronyism and no alternative views are heard never mind anything radical. So things get taken as read. There is a tremendous pressure towards inertia, group conformity and stagnation. One person says something and the others go along with it qualified only by the odd currently fashionable gesture towards community input. At some point a scrap of meaningless superficial nonsense surfaces to general approval and gets elevated to a new jargon helping to builds walls of obscurity around the emerging 'vision' – it has to be a 'vision'. And the more obscure the more it's decared to be transparent.
It’s also noticeable when you get close to these people in the same industry that they have been conditioned to stick together and tell the same story. You wonder what has happened to those who think and speak differently.