Defra is consulting on introducing legislation to ban the burning on deep peat (>40 cm in depth. The legislation is only intended to cover sites designated under European legislation, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas. 85% of all SSSIs in England are also designated and European legislation. The powers for the legislation come from the Hill Farming Act 1946 section 20 which refers to the Heather and Grass Burning Code. This would be amended to make burning on deep peat on SPAs and SACs unlawful. The reason Defra is changing the law is to address the UK government's obligation to bring these site into favourable condition, avoid infraction from failing to meet these obligations and also to address the current climate emergency.
The consultation is limited in its extent and is predominantly targeted at those with consents to burn at the moment. Defra also informally consulting with relevant stakeholders including the Foundation for Common Land and we had a meeting with Defra to discuss the implications for common land. We been informed that there is no land in the south-west of England that has current consents to burn on blanket bog. Below is a link to the consultation and while the majority of it is really for those who directly manage moorland through burning or cutting there is a question asking whether you have common rights and there is also a free text box question 21 you can add your thoughts. As all environmental schemes on Commons require joint participation of the landowner and the commoners we have raised with Defra the implications of this legislation in HLS rollover agreements and countryside stewardship schemes.
Any person wishing to undertake burning after the legislation comes into force will have to apply for a licence from Natural England. It is likely that Natural England's position statement on burning issues in February 2019 would be the criteria against which any application would be assessed.
Link to Defra’s consultation https://consult.defra.gov.uk/land-use/3cded1ce
The consultation closes on 25th August 2019