Yesterday I told you about what we did when the weather postponed our planned boat trip on the Thames to explore the footprint of the Isle of Grain four-runway airport concept proposed by Lord Foster.
Sadly I missed out on the boat – but today the weather has relented and I just got this picture showing our Director for SE England, Chris Corrigan (left) with the Friends of North Kent Marshes – as the sign says, Conservation and Communities United!
The sudden unwelcome focus on building over the Thames' world-renowned coastal wetlands puts in sharp focus the recent anti-environmental rhetoric of the Chancellor of the Exchequer – the clock is ticking towards the 2012 Budget and you can step up and make the case that the natural world is not the enemy of economic recovery – enjoy the video and take action here.
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A short and simple post.
Please watch the video and then please e-mail George Osborne. The Chancellor’s March budget will be a powerful signal of the intentions of the coalition Government towards the natural environment. We believe in a world enriched by nature, where growth is sustainable not at the short-term cost of our finest wildlife sites.
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I have now read the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) line-by-line, comparing it with last year’s draft.
I am impressed, and still happy, as Martin Harper reported in his blog yesterday.
Why am I so happy? Martin mentioned our top three red lines. The Government has listened to us on all three points, and the result is a much more balanced document that we believe will help to deliver the Government’s own objectives in the Natural Environment White Paper.
Here are some extracts that make me really pleased: all things that planners or the planning system have to do, which have been added in the published version:
And here are some good things which were in the draft thanks to our influence, and are still there in the published version:
I could go on, but I’d like to end with thanks to a terrific team. Lots of people were involved, but I’d particularly like to thank Brendan for his determined technical advocacy, Alice for leading our campaigning, Annabel’s policy input while dealing with the Localism Bill, Laura for her parliamentary advocacy, Julia for keeping us sane, Penny our legal advisor and Nathalie Lieven QC for her advice on SSSIs.
Here at the RSPB and at other environment charities we’re waiting with bated breath for the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (the NPPF). The Government has committed to publishing it by the end of March, and we suspect it may come out sooner, possibly even before the Budget on 21 March. Media reports suggest that Chancellor George Osborne has been pressing Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to get on with it. There have been conflicting views from the BBC and the Daily Telegraph about whether environmentalists will be happy with the NPPF.
Wildlife and Countryside Link, the coalition that brings many environmental NGOs together, has just published its red lines for the NPPF. What do we need to convince us that the NPPF will be good for the natural environment?
1. The presumption in favour of sustainable development must be designed to achieve sustainable development, defined in line with the 2005 UK strategy.
In plain language that means the NPPF needs to recognise that there are environmental limits to development. The policy can’t be a presumption in favour of any old development, but must allow local authorities to resist development which harms the environment.
2. The natural environment must be properly and consistently protected.
We’re looking to see strong policies for protecting and enhancing the natural environment. The protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) has been a particular concern ever since our legal advice showed that the NPPF would actually undermine protection, despite the Government’s words to the contrary.
Take Hintlesham Wood in Suffolk. It’s an ancient woodland and a SSSI, notable not just for its tree and plant communities, but home to a healthy population of woodland birds such as nuthatch, marsh tit and treecreeper. There is documented evidence that these woods were around in the twelfth century. However, National Grid is consulting on route options for power cables which affect the wood.
Or take Chattenden Woods SSSI in Kent, where the woods and surrounding scrub supports more than 1% of the UK population of nightingale. The nightingales there are threatened by an urban development of 5,000 homes.
Neither of these sites are protected by international law; both of them could be threatened by an NPPF with weak environmental policies. These are just the sort of places that the NPPF must protect.
We’re also looking to see recognition of Local Nature Partnerships and the new Nature Improvement Areas, which have a crucial strategic role in delivering environmental enhancement and restoration.
3. The NPPF must achieve smart growth.
That is, it must encourage the sensible and efficient use of land through policies such as ‘brownfield first’ (except where brownfield land has developed biodiversity interest) and locating in places accessible by public transport.
13 organisations support these red lines. What would yours be?
We’ll be watching closely on the day of publication to see if the NPPF crosses any of these red lines.
A year ago we launched Stepping Up for Nature in London ... with launches later in the year in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Since then people like you (and probably you too) have taken nearly three million steps – thank you, they most certainly all add up!
Last March I wrote this at the launch and today our Conservation Director, Martin Harper summarised some of our achievements since then and, crucially, looks to the challenges of the future.
Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman, at last year's launch of Stepping Up for Nature - Picture Andre Farrar
And if you fancy taking another step for nature – do watch the video and e-mail Chancellor of the Exchequer, our natural environment and its effective protection is not the enemy of economic recovery.