Co-Chair: Matt Williams, National Trust
Co-Chair: Jess Chappell, RSPB
Link: Dan Pescod, Head of Policy and Advocacy
Link’s 25 Year Plan group continues to lead the sector’s joint action to ensure that the 25 Year Environment Plan’s ambitions are realised.
A conservation covenant is an agreement between a landowner and a body like a charity or public body to do (or not do) something on their land for a conservation purpose. Government legislation on conservation covenants, if done well, would be helpful in protecting and enhancing nature and possibly other “public goods” such as access to green and blue space. In March 2019, Link submitted a response to the Government’s formal consultation on covenants, and in July the Government set out its response to the consultation and intended policy approach. In August and September 2019 we met Defra officials to discuss its plans to legislate for Covenants through the promised Environment Bill.
Biodiversity net gain
The Government’s proposed “biodiversity net gain “policy, which it has promised to mandate through the forthcoming environment bill, would, in its words, “require developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.”
In July 2019 the Government published its response to the Government consultation on net gain and set out how it intends to devise net gain. The proposals chime with many elements of Link’s position. However, we are concerned at the relatively low level of gain being proposed – 10%. We must avoid “net gain” becoming a “license to trash” for developers, and make the most of the aspiration to achieve gains for nature from this policy. We will be scrutinising the detail of the policy – including requirements for monitoring, long-term management, additionality and registration – to ensure that implementation is effective.
Review of protected landscapes
In its 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government said it would:
“conserve and enhance the natural beauty of our landscapes by reviewing National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) for the 21st century, including assessing whether more may be needed”.
Link responded to the Government’s resulting call for evidence to inform its review of England's National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We underlined that National Parks and AONBs have a key role to play in delivering the ambition and commitments set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, and urged that greater priority be given to the conservation and enhancement of the wildlife, cultural heritage and natural beauty of these areas. We also called for better planning rules, enhanced car-free access and strengthened duties on public bodies to protect and enhance these priceless national treasures.
In September the review report was published. Our first impressions are largely positive. We welcome a focus on access for all to nature, for the need to increase biodiversity in our designated landscapes, and for better funding. Link is now studying the detail of the report with a view to providing a policy response.
Environment Bill and the 25 Year plan
The Environment Bill, which we hope to see retabled after the election, is expected to include targets for nature’s recovery and environmental improvement, supporting at least some aspects of the 25 Year Environment Plan. (The first part of the Bill, in draft form, was published in December and covers environmental principles such as “the polluter pays” and the setting up of a “green watchdog,” the “Office for Environmental Protection”). In view of this, December 2018 saw the Group organise a sector-wide workshop to look in some detail at existing environmental targets, with a view to ensuring we maximise our collective knowledge in order to advocate effectively for the best possible environment bill. The 25 Year Plan Group is continuing this work, drafting briefings on a range of environmental targets, and meeting Defra officials.
In August 2019 we published our review of progress on the 25 Year Plan, in which we applaud the Plan’s ambition, but urge the Government to progress further and faster, and to ensure that legislation, funds and a powerful green watchdog are in place to underpin the Plan.
For further information, contact Dan Pescod, Link’s Head of Policy and Advocacy.
Last updated: 2 December 2019
Also in the policy hub:
Membership of Wildlife and Countryside Link is open to national and international voluntary or other non-profit organisations based in England. Member organisations must be able to demonstrate an interest in furthering the work of Link, and their aims must include the protection of wildlife, landscape and the quiet enjoyment and appreciation of the countryside. Individual members of the public are not eligible to join Link, but may be interested in joining one of Link's member organisations.