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Bisons are returning to the UK for the first time in 6,000 years

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A small heard of wild bison is set to be released in Kent in spring 2022 to help revive the species. 

Wild bison have not been in the UK for 6,000 years, but with this £1m project that will reintroduce the animals, a future for the species can be secured. 

The first phase of release will see one male and three females set free in a woodland. The bison will also naturally regenerate a former pine wood plantation by killing off trees, creating a healthy mix of woodland, scrub and glades that will boost insect, bird and plant life.

The bison will come from the Netherlands or Poland, where previous releases have been safe and successful.

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Since 1970, the population of most of the UK’s important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60%, making Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

Paul Hadaway, from Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “The Wilder Blean project will prove that a wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackle the climate and nature crisis we now face. Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape.”

Trees are killed by bison eating the bark or rubbing against them to remove their thick winter fur. 

This dead wood is a feast for insects and birds. It also creates a sunny clearing where native plans can survive.

The trust believe nightingales and turtle doves will benefit from the bison’s ‘ecosystem engineering’. 

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Steppe Bison are thought to have roamed the UK until about 6,000 years ago but went globally extinct due to hunting and changes in habitat. 

The European bison that will be released in Kent is a descendant of the species and the closest living relative. 

The European bison is the continent’s largest land mammal with bulls weighing up to a tonne. Stan Smith of Kent Wildlife Trust said: “They’re enormous but what is amazing is how they blend into their background and they’re quite docile really.”

The project will cover 500 hectares with the bison first placed in a 150-hectare area, giving them enough space even as the herd grows. Normal cattle fencing will stop them wandering further afield. 

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The public will be able to visit the bison with rangers and watch them from viewing platforms one they are settled. 

Paul Whitfield, of Wildwood Trust said: “The partners in the Kent project have long dreamed of restoring the true wild woodlands that have been missing from England for too long.

“People will be able to experience nature in a way they haven’t before, connecting them back to the natural world around them in a deeper way.”

The bison will be kept ‘as wild as possible’ in order for the project to succeed which means they will not be given food or artificial shelter.

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“This initiative could be good news for Britain’s battered biodiversity,” said Rebecca Wrigley, of Rewilding Britain. “It’s increasingly clear that bold and imaginative rewilding is urgently needed to tackle the country’s worrying loss of wildlife.”

She added that far more needed to be done across the UK to reintroduce large herbivores and “unleash their biodiversity-boosting rewilding magic”.

Smith said: “Sometimes in the rewilding debate people think that it’s a look back to the past, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re about trying to find the right natural solution for the modern world.”

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Nicola Bulley: Private dive team brought in as last images of missing mum released

Private dive teams have join the search to help find Nicola.

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A team of private divers have joined search efforts to find missing mum, Nicola Bulley as last images of her from her doorbell camera have been released.

In what is now into the 10th day of the search for the missing mum-of-two, divers from the private Specialist Group International (SGI) are now assisting Lancashire Police. The firm’s founder, Peter Faulding, said he had offered the team’s services free of charge to the force.

The 45-year-old mum was last seen by a member of the public on a riverside dog walk in St Michael’s on Wyre, in Lancashire, on Friday January 27th. Police believe she may have fallen into the River Wyre.

The mortgage advisor was captured on the doorbell camera of her home as she went on the school run before her disappearance. The images show her getting ready to set off on the four-mile journey from her home. Dressed in her walking boots and hooded raincoat, she is seen opening the boot of the family car as her dog, Willow, jumps in the back.

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The private team of drivers have already been scouring the water as they join a team of volunteers, along with mountain rescue, sniffer dogs, drones and helicopters, but no trace of Ms Bulley has yet been found. The firm’s founder, Peter Faulding said: “We’re bringing extra divers, and we also bring hi-tech sonar.

“It gives us double the resources so we can cover an extremely large area.”

Police said SGI’s offer to assist in the search was ‘taken up after speaking with Nicola’s family’, saying: “We continue to lead an extensive and far-reaching multi-agency search using a wide range of specialist equipment and resources.”

Hoping the extra help would bring the family ‘answers’, friend, Emma Wight, added: “Following the theory or hypothesis of the police that Nicola is in the river, we need some evidence to back that up either way.” 

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After she was last sighted, Ms Bulley’s phone was found on a bench by the Wyre, along with a dog harness, some 25 minutes later.

It was still logged in to a conference call.

Lancashire Police have said there was no evidence of ‘anything untoward’ happening to her or any third-party involvement.

With Detective Superintendent Sally Riley saying officers were ‘as sure as we can be that Nicola has not left the area where she was last seen and that very sadly for some reason she has fallen into the water’.

Detectives said they were open to new information and criticised the online abuse of people who had been helping their inquiry, declaring it ‘totally unacceptable’.

Ms Bulley’s disappearance has drawn a lot of attention on social media with thousands of people commenting on the ongoing search. Many have wished the family well while some people have been speculating about what might have happened by discussing the family’s finances and relationships.

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According to the BBC, Ms Bulley’s friend Heather Gibbons said ‘vile’ theories being shared online were hurtful, and that she was concerned that as Ms Bulley’s daughters get older ‘they will be able to look back and they will be able to see everything that was said’.

As reported by the Manchester Evening News, a spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: “The speculation and abuse on social media aimed at some people who are merely assisting our enquiry is totally unacceptable.

“We would urge people to remember that we are investigating the disappearance of Nicola, and the priority is Nicola and her family. We want to find her and provide answers to her family.”

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Government scrap plans to house asylum seekers in Southport Pontins

Ministers are searching for large sites to replace the costly use of hotels to house asylum seekers.

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The UK government has scrapped plans to house asylum seekers in the Pontins holiday resort in Southport.

Sefton Council had opposed converting the resort, in Ainsdale, into asylum accommodation. The authority is understood to have raised a number of objections, including the logistics of accessing the site and the impact it would have on its local tourism.

Southport MP Damien Moore described the proposal for Pontins as ‘completely inappropriate’ and added that an influx of vulnerable families would have added further pressure on local children’s services — already rated ‘inadequate’ by regulator Ofsted.

Ministers are searching for large sites to replace the costly use of hotels to house asylum seekers awaiting decisions while their claims are assessed. The council was approached by the Home Office last year about potentially turning the site into a temporary base, which can accommodate more than 3,000 people, and is still currently used as a holiday resort.

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The government was understood to be close to finalising plans with Britannia, the holiday park’s owner, which would have seen the coastal attraction closed to the public.

A council spokesperson said: “We have now been informed that the Home Office no longer wish to pursue plans to house Asylum Seekers at the Pontins site in Ainsdale. We are awaiting written confirmation of this decision.”

The talks are not understood to have involved Sefton Council or local MP Damien Moore who criticised the government for failing to communicate with him over a key issue affecting his community, saying:MPs should be updated by Home Office officials on how discussions are going.” 

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The government wants to end the reliance on hotels to house asylum seekers who are awaiting decisions on their claims, which the Home Office says is costing £6.8m a day.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick is trying to find larger alternative sites which he says will be cheaper – including former student halls of residence, holiday parks and surplus military sites. But none have yet been given the go-ahead.

A plan to turn a former RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire into an asylum centre was also scrapped last summer due to local opposition.

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Serial rapist from Bolton set for release from prison

He is set to walk free next month

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A serial rapist is set to be released from prison despite an appeal from the justice secretary.

Andrew Barlow, 66, who lived in both Bolton and Oldham, became Britain’s most wanted man after a string of sex attacks on women and girls between 1981-1988. Barlow was jailed for life in 1988 with a minimum term of 20 years, for 11 rapes, three attempted rapes and a range of other offences.

But now he is set to walk free next month after a decision made by the Parole Board, after it rejected an application from Dominic Raab to cancel the scheduled release of the repeat offender. However, the decision may be challenged through an appeal to the High Court.

A spokesperson for the board said: “We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Andrew Barlow following an oral hearing. Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.”

Barlow targeted teenaged girls and young mothers mainly in the Manchester area, where he lived during the decade. He broke into victims’ homes, used weapons to threaten them – and in one case to cause injury – before assaulting them often while their children were in the same house.

The sex offender was dubbed the ‘Coronation Street Rapist’ after attacking several women in terraced houses reminiscent of the ITV soap’s setting. Barlow, also known as Andrew Longmire, was convicted and jailed in October 1988 when he was aged 32.

After serving more than 34 years in jail, the Parole Board determined on December 12th 2022 that he could be released. Mr Raab applied to the board for reconsideration on January 17th, arguing that the panel had ‘failed to take proper account of the evidence regarding risk and in particular the expert psychology evidence’.

 

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The Parole Board heard how Barlow’s behaviour had been ‘good for many years’ while in prison and he had worked on educational and vocational qualifications – he had also taken part in ‘accredited programmes’ to address sex offending.

It concluded that a plan that put strict limitations on his contacts, movements and activities would be ‘robust’ enough to manage Barlow in the community. The board rejected Mr Raab’s application, saying that ‘there has been no misdirection of law’ and that it had considered ‘all the evidence’.

The board said: “The whole panel would be aware of the correct test and the panel was chaired by a very experienced retired Judge who also has considerable experience of parole hearings and applying the statutory test.” 

Barlow’s attacks included the rape of a 26-year-old woman in her Sheffield home, while her three-year-old daughter hid terrified behind a settee. He threatened the woman with a screwdriver before carrying out the attack.

In 2021, following the rearrest of double murderer Colin Pitchfork, the Justice Secretary said he wanted to see a more cautious approach to future parole decisions. Pitchfork, who raped and killed two teenage girls in the 1980s, was recalled to prison in November 2021 – two months after being released.

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