New provisions are to be written into law to permit environmental authorities to enter into “species control agreements”, and to give special powers of entry onto land where an invasive non-native species is present, in exceptional circumstances.
The new provisions are contained in the Infrastructure Bill which is currently passing through the Parliamentary process. The need for these arises from EU regulation on invasive non-native species, which comes into force on 1st January 2015. This requires that Member States take measures to eradicate newly arrived species of European Union concern within three months of their detection.
Presently, Defra and associated “network bodies”, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commissioners have to rely on reaching voluntary agreements with landowners to undertake work or to gain access to the land to eradicate or control invasive non-native species found there.
Defra report that most landowners are willing to enter into voluntary agreements, but a small minority of around 5% will not. Hence the need for species control orders which will take effect where an owner has failed to comply with a species control agreement, or if no such agreement exists and the environmental authority concerned considers that action is required as a matter of urgency to deal with an invasive non-native species. The new powers will be supported by powers of entry and criminal sanctions.
Defra state that the intention is that these powers will be used in exceptional circumstances, where a voluntary approach cannot be agreed and there is a clear and significant threat from inaction. Based on the evidence of recent eradication programmes, Defra estimate that only around one species control order will be required each year.
In due course, a ministerial code of guidance will provide more information on how and when these new powers should be used.