CONCERNS have been raised in East Lancashire about the impact of huge cuts in payments for wildlife-friendly farming.

European leaders are set to slash the amount of money available for conservation by just over 11 billion Euros.

But it is feared changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget will also see wildlife suffer.

Under the changes, European Union member states will be able to choose how funding between direct direct single payment to farmers and payment to rural development schemes is split.

Chris Collett, from the RSPB in Northern England, said it was feared that the development schemes that benefit wildlife would suffer when the money was divided up.

He said: “As important as money for farming is, we want as much as possible to go into the second funding pot because it enables farmers to do invaluable work, particularly in East Lancashire, where certain species have declined in recent years.”

East Lancashire’s endangered species include the lapwing, redshank, snipe, and curlew birds.

The charities conservation director Martin Harper added: “Wildlife across Europe will pay a heavy price for this terribly regressive deal, and we’re bound to see further declines in some species whose numbers have crashed. Since the 1980s Europe has lost 300 million farmland birds.”

But the National Farmers Union claim that the change may lead to unfair competition within the EU.

Carl Hudspith, from the NFU in the North West, said: “The budget being cut at EU level is not surprising, it was inevitable.

“The big issue for farmers in East Lancashire is how our government interprets it.

“Our great worry is that countries such as France and Germany will move money from the rural development funds direct into the pot that goes directly to farmers and environmental lobby groups will try to pressurise the government to try and do the exact opposite.

“Our lads would be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Graham Young, of Greenhurst Farm, Samlesbury, said that as important conservation was the focus on funding food production must not be forgotton.

Mr Young said: “I think we need to keep supporting it and aim for self-sufficiency. Farmers need nature, but nature also needs farming.”

Farmers' attempts to conserve farmland diversity include managing wildflowers and hedgerows, which help sustain birdlife.