One of the very obvious issues around the recent election of MPs to Westminster is the bizarre fact that one party polled a little short of 1.5m votes to secure some 56 MPs, another party received approaching 4m votes yet only saw 1 MP take a seat in Westminster. Is this right?
Setting aside the system allowing the above and irrespective of party politics what was very obvious in the run up to the General Election was the lack of mention of environmental issues by any of the major parties. So, what future England’s green and pleasant lands? What future for the wildlife reported as continuing to decline, what of the State of Nature for the foreseeable future? Here we offer a few potential issues readers might consider ….
Recent concerns might be the proposed sell off of the national forest? Some report that it continues by less direct routes. Commentators have prersented the case that the ConDems under valued the Post Office and short changed the tax payers, so did that set the standard for the sell off of public land which is in all likelihood sure to be back on the agenda?
There is still the issue of National Nature Reserves (NNRs), they are percieved in some quarters as a drain on the public purse and there is a determination to secure revenue from them as they are not eligible for state assistance like charity owned nature reserves or privately owned mountain and moorland periodically available to the public through open access. Will we see increased enthusiasm for ‘best examples’ to be transformed into country theme parks? Irrespective of your views on this issue, there still remains the potential conflict of interest with Natural England as judge and jury in the matter of EIAs or Appropriate Assessments?
Further relaxing of the Planning System presumption in favour of development. Again, the erstwhile statutory guardians of the nature conservation interest is also keen to promote its ‘Discretionary Advice Service’ to developers keen to avoid any constraints upon their commercial proposals. This service, when you eventually locate it, hidden amongst the labyrinth that is GOV.UK offers pre-submission screening service. Developers are required by virtue of legislation to consult NE where there may be impact upon European sites from their proposals. Effectively therefore they have a read made supply of customers? The staff of this ‘service’ have often ‘forgotten’ in our experience to consult with colleagues local to the sites which may be at risk and are the subject of commercial enquiries. This seems somewhat short sighted as it may give rise to or cause issues later on. Our most recent example would be the solar farm proposed for the brownfield site of Thorne Colliery. Had there been inclusive consultation early on in the planning process then the development may not have hit the problems it subsequently encountered?
The above points perhaps raises the question of the future of Natural England, such that we have heard the question asked …. will they have one? Might they be merged with the Environment Agency? Might they be required to morph further and take better account of economic growth? Perhaps they might undertake a review of the Birds and Habitat Directives in line with the desire within the EU to weaken wildlife legislation across Europe? They could play a lead role in further weakening EIA and SEA under a wider review role to cut back on the “green c**p” which was reported to interfere with economic growth.
Natural England could preside again over the licencing of the next tranche of badger culls which are almost certain to be rolled out?
Conversely they could remember that whilst the corporate entity might be considered a pawn in the political game, the staff in principle are defenders of the natural environment and the wildlife it is home to? Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as they say, where will they turn?
If they (NE) or the RPA (mis) manage the Biodiversity Offsetting and Biodiversity Trading then they might be able to recycle their civil service jobs again? Will they undergo an expensive rebranding exercise?
Will they become a grant distributer to agri-industrialists by topping up the subsidies with agri-welfare payments? They may continue to distribute crumbs as appeasement to the NGOs to ensure co-operation through project grants? Hard pressed cash strapped NGOs will be stiffled further in terms of lobbying or challenging?
Could we see a blind eye continuing to be turned in regard to the persecution of wildlife, notably Hen Harriers on upland moors and other birds of prey and lest we forget poor brock: a scapegoat for poor biosecurity on livestock farms?
Biodiversity 2020, well after publication of “The State of Nature” what more is there to be said?
Relaxed approach to implementation of cross compliance (we reported on ‘potential’ breach of cross compliance of in 2012 and the failure of both the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and NE to investigate and to act to recover public funds).
Introduction of GM crops? Neonics given the go ahead? Fracking rolled out across the UK, well the north certainly as it is being promoted as the new ‘power house’.
Further curtailing of charities to lobby and stiffling or removing their ability to speak out and challenge policy making. Freedom of speech, an outdated concept in the modern materialistic mayhem of market forces?
The list is endless, these are just a few potential options to consider? The starter for 10 might well be the EU Referendum? The rest will chug along and be ignored by the mainstream media who prefer to play out their own political programme?
There are a number of erudite analyses on potential environmental impact and whilst some commentators do have party afiliations they offer valid points. Miles King, offers a greater ‘fall out’ list than ours and one which includes issues such as education and energy. Happy Birthday too Miles, 240 posts over two years a very respectable offering and a fantastic 102,711 views! This blog is a tad longer in the tooth, we started tentatively in December 2012 and thus far we’ve published some 237 posts but have not yet opened up the comment option, but we have received feedback via the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
Here’s to continued success for bloggers like King and lest we forget “Standing up for Nature” then there’s the fun ones like “The Ponking Chronicles” Environmental conservation and wildlife needs champions to ‘challenge’ and in so doing create change for the greater good.