The Infrastructure Bill: Public land still up for ‘sale’ to private developers?

Readers might recall a recent post about the next attempt to sell off the Public Forest Estate (PFE), fortunately some community campaigning has managed to persuade enough of the public to support a challenge to the aspects of the Infrastructure Bill speeding through the Westminster corridors at the moment.  It was the ambition of group like Hands Off Our Forests (HOOF) Save our Woods (SoW) and 38 degrees is to see the PFE  excluded from the available land resources available for mass market housing.  The amendment proposed has now been withdrawn and it seems that Lord Ahmad, DCLG, said he will “seek to bring an amendment back to the House at Third Reading that will seek to exempt the public forest estate from transfer to the Homes and Communities Agency”.  Do we trust politicians anymore to safeguard the public resources, let alone the natural environment, this is after all the second attempt that we can recall whereby this ConDem Government has sought to dispose of the PFE.

However as Miles King, in his excellent blog reveals, even if that is achieved (and it has yet to be) King rightly points out that still leaves a lot of publically owned land held ‘in trust’ by Public Bodies and Government Departments.  The Ministry of Defence is one such land portfolio which springs to mind.  Much of the Defence Estate, despite training exercises, is a haven for and a home to some of our rarest wildlife.

Likewise King reminds us that the Biodiversity Duty contained in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 has been watered down to be effectively meaningless.  How has the collective critical mass of the conservation movement allowed that to happen?  Austerity and focus on delivering mitigation projects for Defra and its business allies?  Where are the conservation cause celebres?  Walshaw was a case which was initiated by Natural England, but when they stepped back after challenge by the Walshaw Estate they subsequently negotiated a deal which saw the Estate receive eye watering amounts to effectively continue ‘management’ regardless.  The RSPB stepped up to the mark and the complaint is languishing in the European Commission files somewhere, but at least the baton was taken up.   Calling the Shots 2014 provides a useful background to the issues which are increasingly featuring in the media.

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.”
John Burroughs (1837-1921), American Naturalist

 

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