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Olivia Blake MP joins forces with violent criminal at Sheffield smoke summit charade but Sustainable Air Quality Officer rubbishes her claims

Last week the Labour Mayor for South Yorkshire, Oliver Coppard, organised a ‘smoke summit’, purporting to provide an objective forum for debate surrounding the merits of controlled burning in the uplands.


Only that is not really what it was at all.

No, instead it was more of a gathering of some of the most ardent anti-grouse shooting activists in the country who, once again, see an attack on controlled burning as an opportunity to try and attack grouse shooting through the back door.


Amongst those in attendance last week was the renowned career criminal, Luke Steele, who has spent a significant amount of time behind bars after extreme harassment campaigns against scientists.

Interestingly, effort from the organisers had been made to try to distance themselves from Steele in all and any social media posts surrounding the event.


Ever since the picture emerged of Steele and his brother, Rob, who is dressed as a white supremacist with a baseball bat in front of a fascist celtic cross flag, organisations have tried to distance themselves from him for being too toxic.

Well, other than Mark Avery and the RSPB’s Jeff Knott that is, who are seemingly entirely comfortable in the company of the criminal.

Criminal Luke Steele with Mark Avery and the RSPB's Jeff Knott

Then there was Bob Berzins, the peculiar Peak District fell runner, who seems to care not where he runs, nor what species his disturbs in the process (more on that another time).

When Berzins last gave a presentation on the Peak District moors he was later found to have lied 22 times in less than 20 minutes.

Bob has struck up a keen friendship by the looks of things with an American journalist student, young enough to be his daughter, by the name of Rei Takver.

Takver promotes a bizarre Extinction Rebellion dance group on her website, which was heavily criticised at the time for its sheer weirdness.


The evening started with a short presentation by Ian Rotherham, from Sheffield Hallam University. Amongst other claims he stressed multiple times that ‘if the peat was wet it wouldn’t burn’.

Clearly, for someone claiming to be an expert, he hasn’t spent enough time looking at the wildfires that have arisen at the National Trusts’ Marsden Moor over the last few years.


Despite claims of widespread rewetting projects on Marsden, the moor has suffered more wildfires than anywhere else, releasing far more carbon and smoke pollution into the atmosphere than any controlled burn does.

In 2021 when Marsden Moor suffered one of its most serious wildfires the smoke pollution had significant health implications on local residents as far as Huddersfield.

No one is doubting that rewetting can be beneficial, however thinking it can be done in insolation from other wildfire prevention techniques is frankly delinquency.


Labour MP, and de-facto RSPB spokesperson, Olivia Blake then gave a speech, using her tried and tested technique of reading out a pre-prepared rambling background note that someone had given her, and failing to look up throughout the recital.

When Olivia Blake reads a speech, it is clear she lacks any genuine understanding of her subject matter or even much interest in her audience, as she fails to demonstrate any engagement with those around her.

It was much the same ramble as we’ve seen in Westminster Hall debates in the last couple of years, reinforcing that if ever there was a case of an MP needing presentation training then it is her.

A leaflet distributed at the charade smoke summit

What is immensely disappointing from a publicly elected official is that she has failed to provide any credible sources for any of the outlandish claims she makes regarding smoke data.

Furthermore, on the many occasions she has been invited to visit the Peak District moors by those who work on them 24/7, and to see controlled burning in practice first hand so she can see why it is chosen in certain areas, as opposed to cutting, she has consistently and wilfully ignored the invitation.


After Olivia Blake’s statement in Westminster Hall on 23 January, regarding the banning of all moorland heather burning, she was ask for clarity on the alleged smoke pollution levels after she stated in her speech: “the smoke, ash and pollution engulfed Sheffield Hallam constituency and beyond, and a great many people contacted me about the air quality which was four times over the legal limit on air pollution”. When she was pushed on where she got the figure of ‘four times the limit’ she once again failed to provide an answer.


Statistics subsequently supplied by the Sustainable Air Quality Officer for Sheffield, confirmed that neither PM2.5 or PM10 exceeded any of the limits between 7th October and the 10th October 2023, the dates she was claiming it had.

Olivia Blake, receiving an RSPB award.

All in all, given the reckless manipulation of data and statistics by those presenting at this charade of a summit it is abundantly clear that last week’s ‘smoke summit’ didn’t really have anything to do with public health at all.

It was just the latest act of weaponisation of the facts and figures to push an agenda driven narrative and stir animosity against the rural communities who depend on the moors for their livelihoods.

If the Labour party are serious about trying to attract greater support from rural constituencies the party needs to ensure their MPs act with objectivity and open-mindedness, not lazy preconceived bias fuelled by criminal activists.






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