Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 22, 2016

More Help For Developers

Natural England naturalengland is responsible for enforcing laws that protect wildlife and nature, managing the influence of developers and promoting biodiversity and public access to the countryside. It designates protected areas, issues licences to developers wishing to disturb wildlife and habitats and distributes grants that support farmers to protect them. They also have the power to take legal action.

But now a Natural England insider said that the agency is likely to take fewer legal actions against developers or landowners that infringe its rules. “We will go to court less often and try to find compromises more often. From a conservationist point of view that’s quite worrying because we wouldn’t have teeth anymore,” the source said.

“Wildlife Trusts the-wildlife-trusts across the country have seen Natural England’s reluctance to stand up for nature in local planning decisions on a regular basis. Natural England seems uninterested in getting involved in challenging inappropriate developments that are proposed on important habitats, particularly local wildlife sites, which don’t have legal protection. It’s a widespread and significant issue,” said Steve Trotter, director for England at the Wildlife Trusts. Trotter added “When local planning authorities or developers don’t see any comments from Natural England on a development, they conclude there is no problem – which is not always the case”.

The government’s top natural environment watchdog is planning to rein in its regulatory powers and seek more funding from the corporations it assesses, documents leaked to Energydesk reveal. A source inside Natural England who spoke to Energydesk on condition of anonymity said the body is becoming more reluctant to regulate and warned that if the trend continues “we wouldn’t have any teeth any more”.

Meanwhile, a leading conservationist charity told Energydesk energydesk that the regulator is already withdrawing its opposition on local planning decisions concerning wildlife habitats on a “widespread and significant” level across the country. The news comes as the regulator is set to play a significant role if the UK’s existing environmental regulations – most of which derive from EU membership – are changed as a result of Brexit.

Prominent environmentalist Stanley Johnson also a former Tory MEP and father to Boris Johnson called for the government to stand by “the central importance” of the watchdog in light of the environmental implications of the recent vote to leave the EU, while the RSPB warned that the leak reveals “troubling trends [that] look set to continue”. The leaked documents show that the body is seeking more than £12m in funding from business, including firms that it regulates, by 2020. That amounts to more than an eightfold increase on current levels. The move comes in expectation of a budget cut of up to £30m by 2020, a 27% cut back on 2015/16, the documents say.

In a paper called “Towards 2020 – what sort of organisation will Natural England be in 2020?” which Energydesk understands was circulated internally in June, a number of changes are outlined. It states the watchdog should:
“make more proportionate use of our regulatory powers”
“provide advice to government that is politically aware and based clearly on our local knowledge”
“evolve the way we develop and use our evidence, and how we share it so that it underpins decisions”
“do more work in collaboration with our Defra [UK government] partners both on the ground (where we will operate to aligned boundaries and with shared plans) and at the national level around policy development”.

The document is understood to have raised concerns within the body that the regulator may make less use of its regulatory powers and be more susceptible to political and corporate pressure. The RSPB said “Natural England has already been subject to huge reductions in its capacity to do its vital job, and the current political context means that it has increasingly moved away from using the full range of tools available to protect and restore nature. This document makes clear that those troubling trends look set to continue”.

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