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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what's happened in January. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Jodie Le Marquand. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

January top stories

Mixed picture in water company environmental commitments

This month, Link’s Blueprint for Water Group published its scorecard: an environmental assessment of the commitments made by water companies within their PR19 business plans. Experts in member organisations have assessed how well the water companies have responded to our ‘asks’ laid out in Blueprint for PR19, published in May 2017, and whether their performance commitments reflect our priorities for securing a better environment for wildlife and people.

The scorecards reveal a mixed picture in terms of environmental ambition and commitment in the business plans that England’s water companies published in September 2018. Blueprint for Water says it has seen a ‘positive step change in environmental ambition from the water sector’ in this planning cycle compared to the previous PR14 business plans.

However, despite progress by the water sector, the analysis has highlighted key areas which need action from companies; including:

• taking account of the value of natural capital into all water companies’ planning and decision making by PR24
• improving action to avoid significant pollution incidents, including better monitoring and self-reporting
• making greater efforts to incentivise customers to reduce their water consumption
• developing a much stronger public voice on policy issues that affect the interests of their customers and the environment the companies depend on.

Several press publications covered the analysis including: Ends report,, a feature in Utility Weekly, CIWEM Environment Magazine, The Water Report.

Link welcomes Clean Air Strategy’s moves to cut ammonia

Link welcomed commitments in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy to reduce the devastating impact of ammonia on our native wildlife by cutting emissions from farming. Under the new measures, farmers will have to use low-emissions technology and facilities to collect, store and spread animal wastes and fertilisers on their fields. Many dairy and intensive beef farms will have to apply for an environmental permit, as is already the case for the largest poultry and pig farms. However, Link warned that the devil will be in the detail, urging Government to bring forward detailed proposals in the coming months and set earlier deadlines for reducing ammonia emissions from the most polluting sources.

The issue was covered by the BBC, Ecologist, Air Quality News, Environment Journal, PFM and Technology Networks. Jenny Hawley at Link member Plantlife, appeared on Channel 4 news, and a letter from Link’s Director, Elaine King, was published in The Times.

Link stands strong in its support for the International Whaling Commission

The Link Whales Group has had a busy month responding to Japan’s announcement that it will leave the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial whaling. The Group called on Theresa May to condemn Japan’s declaration in her meeting with Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Members also met with Defra Minister, George Eustice, to discuss further the Government’s response to Japan’s news and future engagement on the International Whaling Commission. To finish the month, on Saturday 26 January, members supported a peaceful protest march to the Japanese Embassy in London and will be discussing plans to keep the pressure on, politically and with the public, in the coming weeks.

One year down, 24 to go for the 25 year environment plan

This month Link hosted a blog from Link’s 25 Year Plan group chair, Matt Williams, from National Trust, to mark the one year anniversary of the launch of this landmark plan.

Like many Link members, Matt recognises that the Plan contains promising initiatives, but that policy ambitions must be enforced and improved upon by a new, strong environment bill and adequate funding arrangements.
As well as campaigning for the environment bill, this year our 25 Year Plan group will advocate for a range of measures in the Plan to be translated into action on the ground. These include: the promised “Nature Recovery Networks”- an additional 500,000 hectares of additional wildlife habitat; the enhancement of our national parks (following up on the Glover review, to which Link has responded); and measures to require a “net biodiversity gain” as houses are built, to name but three. Watch this space!

Link teams up with Nature Friendly Farmers at Oxford Real Farming Conference 2019

Link joined forces with the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) at the 10th Oxford Real Farming Conference to host “Farming green can put you in the black”, a panel session exploring how sustainable and nature-friendly farming methods are essential for a resilient farm business. NFFN panellists shared their real-life experiences of shifting to innovative, sustainable approaches, the business benefits they have seen as a result, and the challenges they encountered along the way – some of which, including inflexible attitudes in some parts of the farming sector, continue to be a challenge.

The panel comprised: Martin Lines, a Cambridgeshire arable farmer and UK Chair of NFFN; Tony Davies, a Welsh sheep farmer; Lynn Cassells, a crofter in the Scottish Highlands; and Jon Andrews, a mixed farmer in Devon and England NFFN Chair. Helen Chesshire, Senior Farming Advisor at the Woodland Trust and Chair of Link’s Agriculture Working Group, chaired the session.

January's blogs and publications

Link’s Blueprint for Water coalition published its environment assessment of water companies’ PR19 business plans. The results present a mixed picture: strengthened ambition for the environment compared to PR14 business plans, but still much to be done in several key areas, for example, commitment to lowering per capita water consumption. Hannah Freeman, Chair of Blueprint for Water, explores this issue in more detail in her Link blog. Additional blogs which accompany the publication of the scorecard include two from water companies, Anglian Water & Southern Water, which were two of six companies awarded ‘Blueprint Blue Stars’ for particular projects which stood out for innovation or environmental ambition.

This month, we joined the RSPB in celebrating its 40th year of the Big Garden Bird Watch, Matt Williams from the National Trust reviewed the delivery of the commitments with the 25 Year Environment Plan one year on and considered the impact of our choices when it comes to making the switch from plastic. Tallulah Chapman from FSC urged us not to just paper over the cracks.

In January, Link published the following blogs, press releases, reports and consultation responses:

• Making healthy waters become 'business as usual'
• Ambition on Natural Capital recognised
• Target 100: Southern Water's new approach to managing demand
• Customers count when it comes to environmental investment
• One year on, is the Government delivering on the 25 year environment plan?
• Ditching plastic? Don’t just paper over the cracks
• Eyes to the skies for the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch
• Clean Air Strategy: progress for wildlife and people on ammonia - the ‘poor cousin’ of air pollution
• Link’s response to Planning Reform Consultation
• PR19 Environmental Assessment Scorecard

Follow Link on LinkedIn and Twitter

Link has a presence on the professional networking site LinkedIn, which includes updates on our blogs, news alerts and job opportunities. Take a look at our page and follow us to keep up to date with our work.

The Link team also regularly tweets news and comment on Twitter, as does Link’s Director, Elaine King.

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