I’ve spoken to one of the local staff members who has been involved and who, now he has visited the site, frankly admits that this was a disastrous mistake, pure and simple, and that he’s absolutely mortified. Although the site in question isn’t an SSSI, it is in an HLS agreement that we’re responsible for overseeing. The HLS agreement is with a private individual, albeit on FC land, and is primarily for heathland restoration. As this particular area was only scrubbed up with 6-10 year old birch, and obviously would have still provided good habitat for reptiles, the Natural England brief for the works was not as detailed as it should have been. As is plain to see from the photos heavy machinery was used, which was the completely wrong method for an area like this (clearly heavy machinery should only be used where there is no reptile habitat whatsoever remaining), and at the worst possible time of year to boot. As soon as Natural England staff became aware of what was happening the work was stopped and less damaging methods were advised
A detailed and very encouraging response from Paul Edgar regarding the incident at Allerthorpe. Paul is Natural England's new Amphibian and Reptile Species Specialist and I believe he deserves a great deal of kudos for being so candid. I really hope that we are at the beginning of a new era, when the statutory conservation organisations and major land owning charities such as The National Trust, County Widlife Trusts, RSPB et. al. take significantly more interest in the conservation of reptiles and amphibians on land that they manage.
Time will tell.