Richard North, 26/02/2014  
 

000a Parrett-024 walk.jpg

I've been so busy writing stuff that I missed this from Dellers and his link to Melissa Kite in the Spectator. Together with this blog, Booker in the Sunday Telegraph, and even Peter's work, the message about the EU, the green lobby and the "wildlife first" agenda is getting through.

It is no coincidence, though, that much of the work which led to the deliberate flooding of the Levels was funded out of the EU's LIFE+ programme. Since its launch in 1992, a total of 216 projects have been co-financed in the UK. Of these, 155 focus on "environmental innovation", 55 on nature conservation and six on information and communication. These projects, says the Commission, "represent a total investment of €430 million, of which €193 million has been contributed by the European Union".

Not untypical of these projects is the one co-funded by the EU and Somerset County Council called the Parrett Trail, creating a 42 mile footpath route within the corridor of the River Parrett from its source to its mouth – part of which is illustrated above. The flooded citizens of the Levels are no doubt mightily appreciative of the effort.

The pathway was funded in order to "provide mechanisms to encourage visitors to enjoy the area by foot rather than by car; and to stimulate the local communities to value the environmental quality of their area". All this was for a mere €565,000 of which the EU only paid half, leaving the Somerset taxpayers to pay the rest. 

But one of the biggest single beneficiaries of the EU's largesse seems to have been the RSPB, of Baroness Young fame. It has pocketed tens of millions of EU cash, most of it directed to Habitat Directive and Natura 2000 projects, which includes the Birds Directive. Between 2007-2012, according to the EU Financial Transparency Database, the RSPB has netted over €14 million.

Since the very early days, though, the RSPB has been a first class passenger on the EU gravy train, in 1994 fronting a €1,000,000 project on the Preparation of action plans for the recovery of globally threatened bird species in Europe.

Typical of its projects is this one where it walked away with a grant of €846,273 - for a total project cost of €1,692,547 - to "raise awareness of the Birds Directive and promote positive land management", the organisation happily trilling about EU support on its own website.

Trill it might, for this was only a tiny fraction of the EU funding finding its way in its capacious, feather-lined pockets. Currently, it is enjoying the Little Terns project funded to tune €3,287,140 with an EU contribution of €1,643,570. The Saline Lagoons Project previously yielded dividends of a cool €682,419.50 from the EU, in a project worth €1,364,840.52. Whoever else might have been short of money, it was not the RSPB.

On top of that is the Alde-Ore Project where the RSPB along with its partner in crime the National Trust is splitting €533,145 of EU money in a project worth €1,066,290. The RSPB even got its feet under the table on the "Life for the Bourgas Lake" project in Bulgaria where the lottery winners are sharing €1,775,006, of which €1,331,254 is EU (i.e., our) money.

Then there is the Scottish Machair Project where the EU is funding the RSPB and partners to the tune of €1,367,515 in a project costing €2,735,031. There is also the Salisbury Plain Project where the RSPB is a partner in a scheme worth €3,482,722, with an EU contribution of €1,741,361. 

Then there was the happy little project of reintroducing the Great Bustard to Salisbury Plain which netted the RSPB-led project €1,636,631.00 in EU funding, in a scheme costing €2,182,175.00. And there was also the RSPB's Bittern Project, costing €3,756,072 with an the EU contribution of €1,878,036.

Between January 2009 and December 2012, there was the TaCTICS project: Tackling Climate Change-Related Threats to an Important Coastal SPA in Eastern England. This involved work on the RSPB Titchwell Marsh bird sanctuary in Norfolk, allowing the RSPB to collect €1,004,830 in EU funding, for a project budgeted at €2,009,660.

We mustn't, of course, forget the New Forest Project either, where the RSPB, with other partners, creamed off €3,744,911 of EU money, out of a total budget of €7,488,389 – the balance funded by the likes of Hampshire County Council. 

Nor should we forget the Blanket Bog Project in Wales, which raked in €2,824,046 of EU money for the RSPB, with a total of €3,765,394 being spent. Not content with that, the RSPB then got another €2,728,721 from a project costing €4,547,869 for Blanket Bogs in Scotland. That would have gone down really well on the Somerset Levels as a contribution towards dredging costs.

All that must be added to the Wise Use of Wetlands co-ordinated by the RSPB, at a cost of €2,108,110 with the EU paying €1,052,044.Taxpayers will also be delighted to know that the Scilly rat removal project, co-organised by the RSPB, had a total budget of €1,107,871. The EU put in €553,935 of our money. With the Broads Authority, the RSPB also managed to chew their way through €1,047,116.69, of which the EU's contribution was €491,909, on a project called New Wetland Harvests.

Many commentators (rightly) complain about the cost of our EU payments, whereas defenders claim that we get the bulk of the money back, through EU-funded schemes. But these are the types of schemes being funded, with the RSPB up-front, filling its boots with our money.

By contrast, the government and local communities struggle to find the money for dredging main rivers, made more costly through EU directives, while the EU funds footpaths which are then shut down because of the subsequent flooding, and pays the RSBP for propaganda, as huge areas of bird sanctuary are polluted and rendered sterile by uncontrolled flooding, the habitat damaged beyond repair.

For that privilege and others, €193 million has been laundered through our EU contributions, to be paid to organisations such as Somerset County Council and the especially the RSPB, which is getting very rich indeed on the proceeds of EU funding. But the worst of it is that €237 million has been paid in match-funding by local authorities and other organisations, for the privilege of getting our own money back, and stuffing the RSPB coffers.

Needless to say, a fraction of that money actually spent on dredging and watercourse maintenance would have gone a very long way towards preventing the flooding of the Levels (and elsewhere), while those essential environmental projects which needed funding would have been funded anyway.

Those who then complain of government cuts might thus recall that €430 million misspent on EU projects might have been far better spent on properly maintaining the environment. The opportunity cost, with money diverted to the EU, has meant that many of the projects which should have been funded have been starved of funds.

From the look of it, there is no need to raid the Foreign Aid budget. Since the RSPB has been filling its boots with EU money to such an enormous extent, all we need to do is look to it for a contribution to the dredging programme. 

Having taken a major part in creating the last floods, it is only right and proper that it should help finance the measures needed to stop them happening again.






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