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 Caves in SSSI

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Ian
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PostSubject: Caves in SSSI   Fri 31 Jul 2009, 2:54 pm

The question of whether or not a cave that extends underground beyond a topographical SSSI designation has "suddenly" become relevant in the case of a joint venture we are considering with another club and I have therefore posted a question to clarify the position on the UKcaving forum (because there are some very knoweldgeable people there)

I will keep this thread updated but you can follow the debate (or even contribute) here;

http://ukcaving.com/board/index.php/topic,8626.0.html

bounce

Ian

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PostSubject: Re: Caves in SSSI   Fri 31 Jul 2009, 3:08 pm

The first response indicates that if the SSSI specifically names the cave (as a cave, not by the cave's name) then the whole of the cave is covered even if it is so far undiscovered and regardless of whether it is outside of the topographical designation.

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PostSubject: Re: Caves in SSSI   Sat 01 Aug 2009, 2:57 am

For a definitive answer you will need to ask CCW, however I would expect the legal situation to be fairly clear cut.
SSSI's are designated on a map (topographically) and that is the only way they can be if they legally exclude certain actions (PDO's). If you are a land owner and have an SSSI on your land, you will have been told by CCW where the boundaries are and what operations are prohibited without CCW's consent.
If subsequently a cave is extended, how does the land owner know to extend the boundaries, how far should they be extended, does the possible extension involve just land over a cave, over the possible/probable extension, over the area of catchment, etc. These things can only be determined once a cave has been extended.

From a legal perspective the law can only deal with absolutes. SSSI's have to be scheduled through quite a complex procedure to ensure any infringements can be prosecuted through the courts. If a site needs extending then this process will have to be repeated for the extension, notification of the proposed extension, the opportunity to object, the final designation and notification of PDO's, etc.

This takes a long time and in the meantime the SSSI has not been extended.

If you look at the designation of the Priddy caves there is special dispensation in the designation for actions normally carried out by cavers. The Priddy SSSI's also have a large list of PDO's and they were originally applied to the whole area of land that overlay a cave but afterwards English Nature (as it was then) gave permission for all actions listed except quarrying.

It is fine to be seeking opinion from the caving community, but the only definitive answer can come from CCW.
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PostSubject: Re: Caves in SSSI   Sat 01 Aug 2009, 9:44 am

Hi Les and thanks for your input - knowledgable as ever and leading me (us) straight to where we should perhaps go.

The reason I (we) put the question to the caving fraternity (rather than the CCW) is that I (we) feel it may be a little too easy for the CCW to say that the cave itself is covered without it being a "proper" answer. (in otherwords, I (we) believe that the person answering the question may well "assume" or "believe" it to be covered (because that person exists to protect it and that will be their default opnion) when that may not be the case).

That last paragraph may be a bit confusing but I hope you follow what I mean.

It is also interesting to now see that the people posting on the main UKcaving thread are offering varied opinions and so I think we may well have to look at the position with our cave very specifically.

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PostSubject: Re: Caves in SSSI   Sat 01 Aug 2009, 10:15 am

Hi Ian,

I suggest your first port of call is to find out why your cave has been scheduled and what PDO's exist. Note that PDO's don't mean you cannot do them, just that you need the written permission of the statuary authority, in your case CCW.

On Mendip, as I already stated, most cave SSSI's specifically exclude normal caving activities such as digging and opening new entrances. This is because cavers had more than a little input at the time of drawing up the scheduling. It may be that cavers had input in your region as well, you need to look it up and see. On Mendip we have surface cave digs within scheduled areas and also digs in scheduled caves. Your relationship with your local CCW officer is very important, they will give consent if you can give assurances and your proposals don't threaten the reason for the scheduling.

I am reasonably confident that if the site is currently outside the SSSI boundary then CCW has no power to carry out any enforcement, however if you are near the SSSI then consulting with CCW and taking onboard their suggestions and recommendations will earn brownie points and help you in the future as well. I don't believe they can take any legal enforcement on an unscheduled site though so you won't be bound by their ideas.

Obviously I am not legally qualified so I will finish with this proviso, You should take legal advice if you are unsure and also talk to your CCW officer (unless (s)he is really anti caving in which case just make sure of your legal ground).
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PostSubject: Re: Caves in SSSI   Mon 03 Aug 2009, 3:07 pm

In addition to the SSSI, this area is also SAC

Found some interesting links on this:

http://glennmorris.org.uk/ecology.htm

http://www.jncc.gov.uk/protectedsites/sacselection/sac.asp?EUcode=UK0030078

Also, when you track the SSSI down on the CCW website it's called something like 'Alyn Valley Woods and Caves', so the caves get special mention.

I feel it's best just to ask CCW and get a definitive answer. I don't think UKCaving can speak on behalf of CCW. I suspect the CCW will be reasonably sympathetic to us provided we approach this the right way.
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