The Chancellor’s Latest attack on the Environment

In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne launched his latest attack on the environment.

“I have not shied away from supporting sensible steps to reduce this country’s dependency on volatile oil prices and reduce our carbon emissions. I am the Chancellor who funded the first ever Green Investment Bank and introduced a Carbon Floor Price. Our Green Deal will help people insulate their homes and cut their heating bills. But I am worried about the combined impact of the green policies adopted not just in Britain, but also by the European Union, on some of our heavy, energy-intensive industries. We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers. All we will be doing is exporting valuable jobs out of Britain.

So we will help them with the costs of the EU Trading Scheme and the carbon price floor, increase their climate change levy relief and reduce the impact of the Electricity Market Reforms on these businesses too. This amounts to £250 million package over the Parliament. And it will keep industry and jobs here in Britain.

It is a reminder to us all that we shouldn’t price British business out of the world economy. If we burden them with endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right – then not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer.

Our planning reforms strike the right balance between protecting our countryside while permitting economic development that creates jobs.

But we need to go further to remove the lengthy delays and high costs of the current system, with new time limits on applications and new responsibilities for statutory consultees.

And we will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like Habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses.

Planning laws need reform.”

It seems to me that the Chancellor is continuing with his anti-environmental rhetoric, that the environment is stopping the UK from competing on the global economic stage, and indeed making the EU an economic backwater.

His particularly colourful language about the Habitats Regulations suggests some personal trauma he suffered at the hands of a ravenous great crested newt, or possibly being gnawed by a hungry dormouse.

Is he seriously suggesting that the Habitats Regulations, and the protection they afford to birds, bats, newts, dormice and crayfish, a few very rare plants, plus the most threatened habitats in Europe, are to blame for the financial crisis we face?

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The Grasslands Trust is the only national UK charity that focuses entirely on saving grasslands that are valuable because they are rich in wildlife, history, or for other reasons.
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4 Responses to The Chancellor’s Latest attack on the Environment

  1. Denis Fuller says:

    I gave a cheer when I heard George Osborne hint that he might stop the gold plating of EU regulations on habitat. Nobody lives the countryside more than me. I’m a former Trustee of The Ramblers; I belong to Surrey Wildlife Trust; I represent Surrey County Council on Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership. Living & working in Surrey Heath I see how Natural England oblige the Local Authorities in the area, who want to build much needed new homes, to waste money on Suitable Alternative Green Spaces (SANGs), in the misguided belief that dog-walkers will go to these alternative sites. SANGS cost money – I’d rather that the money was spent on protecting the
    SPAs & SSIs by preventing fire, employing more rangers & educating the public. People have walked on our beloved heathland for generations -few will be tempted away by expensive & largely unnecessary SANGS.

    • milesking says:

      Thanks for your comment Denis. In a previous existence I worked for English Nature/Natural England on the Dorset Heaths where, compared with the Thames Basin Heaths, a quite different approach was taken, to addressing the impacts of urbanisation on the Dorset Heaths, 8000 ha of European protected habitat. SANGs were part if the mix though. See http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/regions/south_west/ourwork/heathlands/default.aspx

      While I have some sympathy for your views – the SANGs approach may not work in the end, but isn’t this throwing the baby out with the bathwater? If there are problems with the SANGs approach in TBH, that needs to be addressed. Whether SANGs work or not, something has to be done to restrict the impact of new housebuilding on the heathlands, which are unambiguously some of Europe’s most important and threatened habitats – and despite the name do include significant areas of wildlife-rich grassland.

      And is that really an argument for weakening the protection afforded to all European protected species and habitats? I don’t think so.

      • Denis Fuller says:

        if you are in my area I’ll show you an example of a useless SANG. if I may have your email address I’ll send you some correspondence in the local press. On Barossa/Old Dean Common £thousands
        was spent this year on fencing an area (gates, grids etc) for cattle to graze on the grass & thus improve the heathland -a laudable idea. I, the Police & others warned that vandals would attack the cattle & steal the metal. with in weeks the cattle (targets) & the gates were disappearing.
        this is all within a few yards of an unused SANG where money has been wasted – just to tick boxes.
        Frensham Common is still black from a major fire. A senior SCC fire officer still has the BBQ’d potato that started the fire. As I say it is better to spend ‘development money’ on protecting these areas instead of wasting it on SANGS that are there for a a Quango to tick boxes. we do not need EU rules to tell us how to protect our wildlife & countryside. I doubt whether our EU friends would gold plate as we do

        Denis Fuller

  2. milesking says:

    Thanks Dennis. I think Defra will be very interested to hear about your case – they have just announced details of the review. You can see them at http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/11/29/habitats-and-birds-directives/.

    As I understand the TBH approach, money is spent on SANGS and on wardening – is that not correct? At least that’s what it says in the TBH special protection area delivery framework. Also, if I remember correctly, the whole SANGS approach was accepted from the outset as an experiment – if the SANGS do not delivery the mitigation that they were supposed to, then the failure to show “no adverse effect on the integrity of the site” means that the housing development adjacent to the SPAs cannot be mitigated by using SANGS. Which takes us back to where we were in 2005, when there was a complete moratorium on house-building within the Thames Basin Heaths area. Now that was pretty unpopular under a Labour Government – what will the current Government do?

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