ENVIRONMENT Secretary Michael Gove has refused an application to release six Eurasian Lynx into Kielder Forest, Northumberland.

He called the Lynx UK Trust's application in for his personal consideration and asked Natural England to provide advice and undertake a full assessment and provide advice.

Mr Gove has now ruled that the application did not meet the necessary standards set out in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines, and did not comprehensively provide the necessary information required for Defra to be confident in the success of the proposal.

He also found it did not include an ecological impact assessment; no coherent plan for monitoring lynx or their impact on other species, habitats, and humans; and that major landowners and managers, including Forestry Commission England, were either engaged insufficiently or not at all.

Claire Robinson, NFU senior countryside adviser, said Mr Gove's decision would be an enormous relief to farmers in the area.

She said: "The NFU's opposition has always been underpinned by our concerns about the impact lynx could have on the welfare of livestock. The Secretary of State himself notes that the application had failed to demonstrate 'local buy-in' and Natural England's evidence says that the NFU's concerns were not addressed.

"The NFU will continue to monitor this specific case and respond accordingly to any developments."

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA), was delighted with Mr Gove's decision.

He said: "We strongly believe this is the right decision on ecological, social and agricultural grounds. Today's victory is not just for farmers, but for the ecology of the area, the rural community and the farming economy.

"NSA first raised its concerns with Natural England in March 2015 when the release was first suggested and has been leading the charge ever since. Today's announcement shows the effectiveness of our working with local farmers and community groups that share our concerns.

"The community in Kielder has really come together and with the support of NSA has hosted meetings and discussions to raise their concerns. The threat of lynx against sheep was very real and we could not be happier that this isn't a risk our members will have to face."