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Before They Ruin Everything (1 Viewer)

Gastronaut

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Surprised there's not a thread on this already ... maybe there is and I just didn't see it.

Please sign the online petition to stop the govt. scrapping our environmental laws on the basis they are just inconvenient "red tape" getting in the way of business.
http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/dont-scrap-environment-laws#petition

That's right, read it again, just a load of red tape apparently. This isn't a wind-up, they're really planning to do this it seems. I'm so flabbergasted I'm numb. Not normally lost for expletives, especially regarding the Tories and their constant attempts to eradicate our wildlife just for a quick quid, but this is just too much. Looks like the thing with the trees was just an aperitif.

Still, on a bright note I just heard a rumour that Thatcher is dead.
 
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bluechaffinch

Well-known member
Well, looking at the petition website I am worried by the overall lack of any detail - as far as I can see it states that a range of UK legislation is 'under review'. This could mean many things, some of which may even end up benefitting our wildlife and wild places. Are we really suggesting that our current legislation is perfect and in no need of updating? Many parts of the WACA are terribly outdated. The toughest wildlife laws we have are EU directives which will not be subject to any review by the Gov't, therefore our most endangered species and habitats will not be impacted upon (apparently). As for climate change legislation, there is a good argument for spending our efforts on more pressing problems rather that inevitable changes to weather systems. Perhaps it would be best to wait until further details of exactly what is being proposed are known before rushing to sign a petition - surely a more effective way of raising objections is to wait until all the facts are known?
 

MJB

Well-known member
Well, looking at the petition website I am worried by the overall lack of any detail - as far as I can see it states that a range of UK legislation is 'under review'. This could mean many things, some of which may even end up benefitting our wildlife and wild places. Are we really suggesting that our current legislation is perfect and in no need of updating? Many parts of the WACA are terribly outdated. The toughest wildlife laws we have are EU directives which will not be subject to any review by the Gov't, therefore our most endangered species and habitats will not be impacted upon (apparently). As for climate change legislation, there is a good argument for spending our efforts on more pressing problems rather that inevitable changes to weather systems. Perhaps it would be best to wait until further details of exactly what is being proposed are known before rushing to sign a petition - surely a more effective way of raising objections is to wait until all the facts are known?

True intent to reform always is based on evidence and an argued case. The warning sign here is that neither has been presented. Instead, a snappy assertion of 'cutting though red tape' is simply a thinkstop.

Can anyone seriously suggest that any thinking by anyone in the present government has been done to improve such as the WACA? By all means call for a position statement that will provide some detail on what is being proposed - then and only then can we evaluate whether WACA restrictions are simply red tape or are in need of rational updating. I must admit that my hopes that this administration would build on the rational aspects of the previous administration rather than rubbish everything (not that some aspects needed rubbishing!) as a starting point have sadly been dashed by a positive blizzard of unsupported assertions on almost every subject...
MJB
 

bluechaffinch

Well-known member
True intent to reform always is based on evidence and an argued case. The warning sign here is that neither has been presented. Instead, a snappy assertion of 'cutting though red tape' is simply a thinkstop.

Can anyone seriously suggest that any thinking by anyone in the present government has been done to improve such as the WACA? By all means call for a position statement that will provide some detail on what is being proposed - then and only then can we evaluate whether WACA restrictions are simply red tape or are in need of rational updating. I must admit that my hopes that this administration would build on the rational aspects of the previous administration rather than rubbish everything (not that some aspects needed rubbishing!) as a starting point have sadly been dashed by a positive blizzard of unsupported assertions on almost every subject...
MJB

Yep, I do agree up to a point. The obsession (prevalent not just in Gov't but within the wider populace it would seem) with cutting through 'red tape' at any cost is worrying and, based on present performance, the Tory-led administration doesn't have a great track record. Having said that, any review and subsequent alteration of UK legislation will inevitably be a lengthy processs and will undoubtedly attract (and be given suitable time for) plenty of comment from NGOs, the public and the statutory agencies - these decisions are not simply made of the cuff by ministers but will require an act of parliament.

As an ecological professional, I have a working knowledge of how ecological issues are dealt with through the UK planning system. I have to say in all honesty that current interpretations of UK and EU legislation (and believe me these vary widely between local planning authorities - there is very little consistency) often result in entirely unsatisfactory outcomes for wildlife - as an example, can it be right that many thousands of pounds are often spent on relocating a few slow-worms from a development site? This serves only to slow down the planning system and encourage a negative attitude of ecology with developers. There are surely more intelligent ways in which to make real wildlife gains through the planning system than the over-complicated process that we have at the moment. Perhaps, as has been bandied about for many years by professional ecologists, a 'newt tax' or 'reptile tax', wherein developers contribute to a national/regional/local fund for maintaining and enhancing suitable habitat which actually has a chance of supporting viable populations. These are the kind of issues that need to be reviewed - is anybody seriously thinking that this or any Gov't will scrap the WACA? No, we must assume that, in conjunction with suitable professionals, decisions will be based on sound judgement. We must remember that our wildlife legislation is not there simply to halt all development (after all, isn't every single person's house/home situated on what was once previously natural/semi-natural habitat?) but should seek to find ways in which socio-economic development can continue without compromising our country's natural heritage.

I know I don't have any answers but I would not cry wolf until the full facts are out - we only have to look at the recent furore over the proposed forest sell-off to see what a fuss can be made when 'the public' are not in posession of (or blind to?) the facts. Th efacts are athat huge areas of our 'national forests' are already sold-off each year without anyone batting an eyelid.
 

MJB

Well-known member
BlueChaffinch,
Very good summary, but my cynicism trigger is pulled by trying to place 'more intelligent ways' and imagining the government dealing with complex issues intelligently into the same paragraph!

In wildlife and conservation legislation, there is a need for a standards body that has the executive responsibility to deal with aspects such as you have highlit. However, given the Pavlovian reaction of so many in government to the very idea of a quango... Such a body would not have to refer back to Parliament for every minor change - after all, this principle has worked with bird monitoring data in the 'State of the Nation' concept, where government policy is adjusted (and financial expenditure made) as a consequence of indicator species changing, but without every decision having to be referred back to Westminster.
MJB
 

bluechaffinch

Well-known member
BlueChaffinch,
Very good summary, but my cynicism trigger is pulled by trying to place 'more intelligent ways' and imagining the government dealing with complex issues intelligently into the same paragraph!

In wildlife and conservation legislation, there is a need for a standards body that has the executive responsibility to deal with aspects such as you have highlit. However, given the Pavlovian reaction of so many in government to the very idea of a quango... Such a body would not have to refer back to Parliament for every minor change - after all, this principle has worked with bird monitoring data in the 'State of the Nation' concept, where government policy is adjusted (and financial expenditure made) as a consequence of indicator species changing, but without every decision having to be referred back to Westminster.
MJB

MJB,

Good points, and believe me I have a hair trigger when it comes to cynicism! You are not alone.

My initial reaction to the original post which started this thread was mild annoyance - it is far too easy to say 'no, I object, end of story' and this seems particularly prevalent within the 'wildlife community'. It's really an extension of the 'I know what I like and I like what I bloody well know' attitude which gets 'us' nowhere. These attitudes are usually based on a lack of fundamental information - I do wish we could base our reactions on sound knowledge of the actual situation rather than just shooting from the hip any time someone mentions any possible change which may affect wildlife. Forgive me if the following is old hat...

In the UK (and beyond in Europe) our ecological 'capital' comprises a network of protected (or not) designated sites ranging from the top-drawer Natura 2000 sites down to locally designated sites such as SINCs. The best of these sites (SAC, SPA, Ramsar, NNR, SSSI) are extremely unlikley to be impacted upon without one heck of a fight from a range of people and organisations, not least the statutory conservation bodies (who do actually have some real clout, contrary to popular belief). Many, if not most of these sites, are in either private ownership or belong to large bodies such as the MOD, Crown Estate, National Trust or RSPB - these sites are in no danger from any change to legislation, and their management to meet stringent ecological criteria attracts massive funding for the landowners.

Smaller, locally-designated sites such as LNRs or SINCs are, regrettably, at some risk of being impacted upon in some circumstances, although current planning legislation states that even non-statutory designated sites are a material consideration within the planning process (Planning Policy Statement 9). I should imagine however that, given the popularity of these sites to local communities, any change to the planning system impacting on these sites will be troublesome for the Gov't - I'd wager that Mr Pickles' Localism Bill will only strengthen the hand of concerned locals but will lead to more wildlife/development stand-offs.

The other ecological 'capital' we have is our biodiversity. At present, the key pieces of wildlife legislation comprise lists of protected species, ranging from European Protected Species (EPS) under the Conservation Regulations 2010 (bats, dormouse, great crested newt etc), to stuff such as common reptiles under the WACA. I think it is fair to say that most people don't realise just how stringent this legislation is and what effects it has on the planning system here in the UK.

Every single planning application must be accompanied by , at minimum, a Phase 1 ecological survey and most will trigger a suite of Phase 2 surveys for specific organisms. Beyond this, if EPS are involved then licences are needed from Natural England (or relevant body) before any works can commence - the licence is not granted until a detailed mitigation strategy is submitted. So, under the current system of wildlife legislation the needs of biodiversity are well-served - we have probably the toughest legislation in Europe. I also believe that the majority of folks will have no idea just how restrictive, costly and time-consuming ecological mitigation is/can be - the system is far from ideal and, as I alluded to in my previous post, can actually be harmful to wildlife in the long-term by promoting the view that it is getting in the way of development.

I would confidently state that the greatest threats and potential benefits to out natural heritage come through the planning system - I would be most concerned if changes to planning legislation were on the table rather than the loss of a vague climate change act.

Cuts to local planning authorities are already causing great concern, with many authorities laying off ecologists. Natural England are also in a spot of bother in the bonfire of the quangos (actually more of a smouldering, sub-surface peat fire).

I'm not trying to say that all is well and there's no need to be wary - but a gut-reaction panic helps no-one. Let's watch what happens and be alert for anything that needs real attention.

Cheers,

Tristan
 

Gastronaut

_______________
My initial reaction to the original post which started this thread was mild annoyance - it is far too easy to say 'no, I object, end of story' and this seems particularly prevalent within the 'wildlife community'. It's really an extension of the 'I know what I like and I like what I bloody well know' attitude which gets 'us' nowhere. These attitudes are usually based on a lack of fundamental information - I do wish we could base our reactions on sound knowledge of the actual situation rather than just shooting from the hip any time someone mentions any possible change which may affect wildlife.

Ooh, pardon me for caring.

The following is from the website of Butterfly Conservation:
The Government has recently launched a consultation on the proposed scrapping of a whole range of regulations, known as the 'Red Tape Challenge'. This was launched by Vince Cable on 7 April 2011 in a bid to boost short-term economic growth. Amazingly this includes most of the wildlife legislation that we and our partners have worked so hard to get on the statute books in recent years.
In short, it seems Government is considering getting rid of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Climate Change Act, and 278 environment laws (among thousands of laws and regulations). These Acts are essential for protecting key wildlife sites and species from development and have been developed after long campaigns by wildlife NGOs. Scrapping them would results in immeasurable damage to species and habitats, including butterflies and moths.
Environmental regulations fall under "general regulations" on which the Government are inviting comments throughout the process. The Cabinet Office is 'crowdsourcing' proposals for which laws should be scrapped, with Ministers facing a basic presumption that laws and regulations listed in the Red Tape Challenge should be scrapped. Once the nation has had its say, Ministers will have three months to work out which regulations they want to keep and why.

Seems to me that this whole red tape challenge is simply part of government by popularity contest. The size of the outcry is a measure of how many votes it's going to cost them. Sitting back to see what happens just means other people more prepared to voice their opinions take precedence. Maybe they'll set up a phoneline so we can ring in to vote for which legislation we want to keep and which we want to evict.
 
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