Government ‘failing’ on countryside plans

The government is failing to deliver on most of its commitments to help the countryside, a group of leading conservation organisation has claimed.

A report backed by 29 wildlife groups, including the RSPB and the Badger Trust,  looked at 16 government pledges on the natural environment to see if they were being backed by well-designed policies.

The Nature Check document says the government has not kept its promise over a number of policies and points to a number of controversial schemes – including proposals for a pilot badger cull to tackle bovine TB – which fail to protect nature.

Other policies include the attempt to sell off forests and the current row over planning system, where campaigners fear changes to planning rules will lead to overdevelopment and damage to the countryside.

Published by the Wildlife and Countryside Link umbrella group, the report also expresses concern over the delivery of the government’s well-designed flood prevenetion plans and proposals to ensure open access to the coast.

Martin Harper, conservation director of the RSPB, said: “In these financially-straitened times politicians may be tempted to ignore the natural environment in favour of economic growth,” said Martin Harper, RSPB conservation direction.

“But this kind of short-termist attitude won’t wash with a British public which expects the government to protect the countryside and wildlife we all hold dear.”

Shadow DEFRA minister Mary Creagh, claimed the report showed the government was “out of touch” on the environment and failing to protect the countryside.  
“The forest sell-off, the debacle over planning reforms and an expensive badger cull, which will have a negligible impact on bovine TB, mean that DEFRA is a department in special measures,” she added. “The Tories have no plan for the environment.”

But a DEFRA spokeswoman said the government was working on an ambitious programme of policies and had made good progress across many areas.
 “We believe that communities, business, civil society and government working together are likely to have the greatest impact on protecting and improving our environment,” she said.

 “In the last few months we have unveiled a new Biodiversity Strategy for England, the National Ecosystems Assessment and the Natural Environment White Paper, the first in 20 years.

“We’re committed to leading by example and being the greenest government ever, mainstreaming sustainable development and enabling the value of natural environment and biodiversity to be reflected when decisions are made.”

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