Eustice gives assurances on ‘cautious’ reform of habitat regulation
In a speech yesterday, Eustice made a series of announcements, including that a statutory target to improve species abundance by 2030 will be inserted into the bill, alongside new plans for planting d ‘trees, the reintroduction of species and the end of the sale of peat.
But his plan to “refocus” regulation, “to ensure that our legislation adequately supports our ambitions for nature, including our new global goals, rather than remaining tied to legacy European legislation,” as he said. watch in the Commons, triggered criticism from the environmental community.
What this means for pre-development environmental assessments, which the Prime Minister called “delays in newts counting” which constitute “a massive brake on the prosperity of this country”, remains unclear. Plans to change environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment regimes were mentioned in the Queen’s Speech last week.
But yesterday, in a blog post, Joan Edwards, director of policy and public affairs for the Wildlife Trusts, warned Eustice against radical change. “Our most endangered wildlife and important wilderness areas are under threat. Don’t play with the crown jewels, ”she wrote.
After his speech yesterday, Eustice was asked if he was ensuring the Habitat Regulations were not compromised, “and isn’t that a threat to the progress we’re making?”
“I can give that assurance, and in fact it will be explicit at first glance of the bill, so the amendment can only be used on condition that it is to maintain or to improve the protections that we have,” replied Eustice. He had previously promised “a cautious approach to reform”.
“You will still need a selection process and an evaluation process for some of these projects. But inside of that, we also have to say that the Habitat Regulation predates the Environment Bill, crucially preceded this revolutionary goal that we have set for ourselves today, and if you going to have the obligation for public bodies to achieve these objectives, then certainly the objectives. that we set today should be reflected in the Habitat Regulations.
“So rather than having a set of regulations that only refer to an EU directive, we should also be looking to see how we can integrate the goals we have set ourselves today with how we are addressing these assessments, ”he added.
“It is absolutely essential that he live up to his word, because these bylaws are meant to protect our most precious wild places and the most endangered wildlife; they protect species and habitats of importance not only across the UK but across Europe, including otters and harbor porpoises, as well as lands recognized as Special Areas of Conservation ”, said writes Edwards.
“Politicians have tried for years to water down these protections – even though we live in one of the most nature-impoverished countries in the world and wildlife is more endangered than ever. The Habitat Regulations are not just another boring engineering planning law – they are absolutely vital protections for wildlife, helping nature survive in our increasingly developed lands and seas. With almost half of Britain’s wildlife in long-term decline and 15% of species threatened with extinction, these regulations are more important than ever, ”she added.
The rules have been revised twice in the past decade, the first in 2012 having been ordered by then-Chancellor George Osborne to speed up and depreciate large infrastructure projects. But that was still insufficient, and the review found that few reviews led to rejections.
The European Commission’s 2016 “ fitness check ” of the underlying bird and habitat directives also found them to be valid. But the same year, before the Brexit referendum, Eustice said they deserved a more flexible approach.
“The directives on birds and habitats would disappear,” he told the Guardian. “A lot of the national guidelines they asked us to put in place would remain. But the framework of directives is so rigid that it crushes the mind.
“If we had more flexibility, we could focus the energies of our scientists on finding exciting new ways to protect the environment, rather than just producing bulky documents from Brussels.
A green paper on reforms is expected this fall.