Last year Chancellor George Osborne declared in the Commons that laws protecting our environment were "a ridiculous cost on British business” and he proposed ripping them up.
Sleep soundly in your beds tonight, calmed by the knowledge that your local park, river, woods and the whole country won't be covered in concrete; and that birds, animals, plants and marine life (actually, not our marine life) will still be there when you wake-up. Was it all a bad dream?
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] review, sparked by the Chancellor's off-the-cuff guff, has reported back and dismissed his assertions. They reaffirm the Government’s support for the Birds and Habitats Directives, and then go further, demonstrating that these vital environmental safeguards do not act as a brake on economic development.
But has the damage already been done? Over the past couple of weeks the RSPB London office has recorded an increase in desperate emails and phone calls from people moved to step-up their action for nature. They opened their curtains to find either chainsaws, bulldozers or diggers have removed trees, scraped away wildflower meadows or excavated great holes where birds, bats, butterflies and rare plants once greeted them.
The problem isn't the development. The problem is that there was a perception created that economic necessity trumped the environment. As the clever people at Defra have pointed out, the environment is our friend. Thinking about, and working with, the interplay between nature and our aspirations to build businesses, communities and healthy economies saves money and makes for a better end product.
So take a moment to stare out your window when you wake-up tomorrow. Listen to the soundtrack of nature. See if you can guess what will be the first living thing you see beyond your immediate family, partner or neighbours. Will it be a majestic and mighty London plane tree with its mottled trunk and emerging lime green leaves? Maybe a local cat stretching to welcome the morning sun? Or perhaps a blackbird with its yellow rimmed eyes scouring some grass for a breakfast snack. Them remeber. All of this ... it's our natural economy and it is priceless.