Environment Bill – some progress but the Government is still lacking commitment to improve the state of nature

State of nature

In June 2021 there were commitments made by the Environment Secretary towards halting the decline of nature by 2030. The detail has now come forward, as an amendment to the Environment Bill, and we can now sadly confirm a failure on the part of Government to set a meaningful target to halt nature’s decline. The wording in the Bill now say commits the Government to “furthering” (not delivering) the objective of halting species decline.

Wildlife & Countryside LINK say “This falls short of the action needed for nature’s recovery and could weaken the UK’s advocacy of nature based solutions to climate breakdown at COP26. The gap between nature rhetoric and policy reality needs to be closed. We are urging the Government to rewrite the amendment to the Bill with a firm 2030 target to actually halt nature’s decline, and thank the peers of all parties who are working to achieve this as the Environment Bill goes through the Lords – and the 200,000 people backing the campaign! There is still time to deliver a true net zero for nature, and a moral obligation and political imperative to do so”.

Better news: Major Infrastructure Projects and the Environment Bill

The Government has agreed to amend the Environment Bill to apply Biodiversity Net Gain, a new planning condition requiring developers to achieve at least a 10% uplift in biodiversity through their development, to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. NSIPs are large scale developments relating to energy, transport (like trunk roads and Motorways), water, or waste. Click HERE for a useful article from ENDS Report on this subject.

“Setting” of National Parks & Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)

A new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 175 has been amended in response to the Glover Review of protected landscapes, to clarify that the scale and extent of development within the settings of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be sensitively located and designed so as to avoid adverse impacts on the designated landscapes. These changes will be adopted in a new NPPF to be published later this year. The response from the Landscape Institute is a very useful document on changes to the NPPF.

Progress on Highly Protected Marine Areas

The long wait for the Government to respond to last year’s Benyon Review, and its recommendation for a new network of Highly Protected Marine Areas, has now come to an end. On June 8th, World Ocean Day, the Government announced their intention of piloting the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), to begin at the end of 2022.
However, as Wildlife & Countryside LINK say “for these sites to function effectively, the Government must be committed to supporting scientific and ecological monitoring through adequate funding, whilst supporting coastal communities to facilitate their participation in the project. Link will be pushing for confirmation of this, and for Ministers to outline detailed plans for achieving 30% of our waters being fully or highly protected by 2030. If the HPMAs take these measures into account, they will play a crucial role in protecting and restoring Britain’s marine habitats”.

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