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Ashden risk losing credibility after Haweswater nominated for award despite the United Utilities owned reserve being labelled 'environmental disaster' in new report

Last month a new report was published highlighting the extent of the environmental damage and community conflict that has taken place across Haweswater, the Cumbrian reserve owned by United Utilities and run by the RSPB.


Amongst many failings of the RSPB’s management of the reserve outlined in the report, the charity was accused of “wasting millions of pounds of public money on untested land management schemes, which had been predicted to fail”.


Specifically, the report found that a £3million tree planting project at the reserve had largely failed because many of the trees had been planted incorrectly. Furthermore significant amounts of microplastics from the tree guards breaking down had polluted the watercourses, which supply drinking water to 2.5 million people in Northwest England.

The report also found that United Utilities and the RSPB ignored warnings from local communities that the scheme would fail before the money was wasted and that relations between the local communities, United Utilities and the RSPB are now at a near complete breakdown.

The report’s author, AB O’Rourke, said: “United Utilities is regarded as the country’s worst water polluter and here it is, with the help of the RSPB, pushing farmers into untested schemes that demand rapid radical changes without doing any small-scale trials beforehand. Nobody seems to be held responsible when the schemes fail and millions of pounds worth of public money is wasted. United Utilities has created an environmental disaster and then washed its hands of it".


The RSPB manager of Haweswater at the time was Lee Schofield, who once wrote that engagement with the local farming community led him to return home in the evenings, put on music by the heavy metal band, Rage Against the Machine, and scream at the top of his voice to the lyrics ‘F**K you, I won’t do what you tell me; F**k you, I won’t do what you tell me", in the ominously named song 'Killing In The Name Of'. If this sounds somewhat unhinged that is because it is.

Perhaps if he had listened to what the local community and done what they told him there would not have been a colossal waste of public funds.

Schofield has since left his position at Haweswater, a month before the publication of the report, citing ‘burn out’.  


Former MP for Penrith and The Border, Rory Stewart, has also been openly critical about the Haweswater project in the past publishing his concerns the rewilding taking place there was ‘leaving no place for humans in the landscape’.


Earlier this week Steve Coogan led a separate protest against United Utilities in nearby Windemere after heavy pollution into the lake. The actor accused the water company of ‘greenwashing’ and ‘PR spin’, and said the money the firm was investing into addressing the issue was "chicken feed" in comparison to its profits.


You would think that given the criticisms of Haweswater, not to mention the fact that United Utilities have been considered the worst polluter in the country, organisations would want to stay clear of any association with the reserve.


And yet, last week the prestigious Ashden Awards announced that the United Utilities owned Haweswater had been shortlisted for the 'Nature Based Solution' award. This surely makes a mockery of the Ashden Awards and completely undermines its credibility.


As the Haweswater report author, AB O’Rourke, said: “The RSPB has been calling for ‘crimes against nature’ to be written into law. If what it did with United Utilities at Haweswater isn't a crime against nature, then I don't know what is”.



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