Dartmoor has been going up in flames in recent days...
...according to the DNPA website. I'm reasonably certain that no WITC blog readers are Dartmoor Commoners with the rights to swale the moorland. However, just in case, and for the benefit of everyone else, we dedicate this blog entry to the National Park Authority's Swaling Code of Conduct.
The Legal Requirements
The burning, not only of heather and grass, but also gorse, bracken and bilberry, is controlled by the Heather and Grass, etc (Burning) Regulations 1986.
Burning is only allowed between: 1 October - 15 April in upland areas. The National Park Authority recommends no burning after 31 March to prevent harm to nesting birds.
Outside these dates burning is allowed only under licence issued by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Permission of the owner must be gained.
At least 24 hours
but no more than 7 days notice of intent to burn must be given in writing to the owners and occupiers of the land concerned and persons in charge of adjacent land.
You must not start burning heather, grass, gorse, bracken or bilberry between sunset and sunrise.
You must ensure that sufficient people and equipment are on hand to control the burn.
You must take all reasonable precautions to prevent injury or damage.
You must not cause a nuisance through the creation of smoke. This is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1956.
You must contact English Nature if burning on a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Under the Dartmoor Commoners' Council's Regulations, arising from the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, no person or local Commoners' Association shall burn moorland where heather is present on the commons exceeding an area of 9000 square metre at intervals of less than 12 years, nor where the distance between burns in any one year is less than 150 metres. No Person or local Commoners' Association shall burn moorland where dead grass, bracken or gorse is present on any common land unit exceeding 50 acres (20 hectares) or 25% of the area of that common land unit which ever shall be the less and such burning shall take place at intervals of no less than 3 years.
Points to Remember
Burn in accordance with an approved long-term Fire Plan for your area, drawn up to meet agricultural and environmental objectives.
The Fire Plan should include a programme of essential burning on a sound rotation basis and include the creation of firebreaks where necessary.
Plan individual burns sensibly by relating size of area to manpower availability, safety requirements and forecasted weather predictions.
Plan to avoid burning at weekends or public holidays if possible.
Burn when there is a gentle breeze.
Make an early start.
Stop and re-assess if conditions change.
Choose with care the best spot to start the fire, to ensure the fire doesn't spread too quickly.
Burn small areas at a time, paying particular attention to the optimum width of the burn.
Use firebreaks, choosing natural boundaries for the burn wherever possible.
Have sufficient manpower and equipment. Appoint one person to be in charge.
Landscape and Wildlife
Take account of wildlife habitats. Avoid spoiling the landscape and environment.
Keep them informed and take account of their property and interests.
Avoid creating hazards to road users and the public.
A breach of the Heather and Grass etc (Burning) Regulations 1986 may on conviction result in a fine of up to £1000.
Source: Dartmoor National Park Authority (http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/lookingafter/laf-landmanagement/laf-swaling/swaling-code-of-conduct)