Attack on Nature

Tuesday 29th November 2011

Looking to Bredon Hill, Worcestershire's largest Special Area of ConservationLooking to Bredon Hill, Worcestershire's largest Special Area of Conservation

The Wildlife Trusts today voice exasperation at George Osborne's Autumn budget statement which includes plans to review the rules which protect some of the most important wildlife sites in England.

“It seems that the Chancellor is not content with the massive shake-up of the planning system that is already under way and which initially failed to recognise Local Wildlife Sites. Now sites and species of European importance face an uncertain future in England. When will the Government recognise that our natural resources are finite?” asked The Wildlife Trusts’ Chief Executive Stephanie Hilborne OBE.

The Government’s own National Ecosystem Assessment and Natural Environment White Paper, both published in June this year, promised us much more than this. They were to herald a step change in nature’s fortunes.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are a key part of the foundation upon which nature’s recovery across England will depend. Yet taking England’s much depleted wildlife into a more positive future is clearly far from the Chancellor’s agenda.

Stephanie continued “To go down in history as the Government that kick-started nature’s recovery means maintaining the long fought for protection for England’s richest wildlife sites.”

She added: “The Wildlife Trusts are well known for taking a pragmatic and constructive stance in its dealings with developers and local authorities on the ground and with the national Government. Now we have to lost patience with the Treasury.

"The wrong outcome from this review risks driving a wedge between developers and conservationists at time when we ought to be co-operating more than ever.

"At a time of recession we should look to the long-term. The coalition Government during the Second World War placed nature at the centre of post-war reconstruction." Stephanie Hillbourne

Special Areas of Conservation were established under the EU Habitats Directive and Special Protection Areas established under the EU Birds Directive. Such sites are the very core of environmental protection on land and at sea in England. They are key to our quality of life and to the future of iconic places in a densely populated country like our own.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape, added “We are deeply concerned that Government is considering reviewing the implementation of both the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in England, in an attempt to ease the way for major developments on land and on our coasts.”

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas, said “It would be appalling if this review created yet another barrier to protecting wildlife at sea. We were already 60 years behind conservation on land when the 2009 Marine Act was to have started a new era”.

Thirteen off-shore SACs were announced by the European Commission only last week giving hope to The Wildlife Trusts’ long-running campaign for marine protected areas.

The chairs and chief executives of the 47 Wildlife Trusts met last week and heard from the New Economics Foundation about the urgent need for a fundamentally different economic model that takes into account that our natural resources are being rapidly depleted. Only such a dramatic shift will secure a society that can thrive whilst addressing climate change and reversing the loss of biodiversity.

Stephanie Hilborne concluded: “Economic growth should not be achieved at the cost of our natural life support systems.”

The Trusts will be lobbying Government through the review process to ensure the right outcome for wildlife. 

Tagged with: Budget review, DEFRA, Government, MCZ, SAC, SPA, Threats to nature