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“Destroying nature destroys the fundamentals of health and happiness” – letter from nature campaigners warns Prime Minister of the impact of ripping up environmental protections

3 October 2022

  • Nature groups warn UK being put on path to be the ‘Dirty Man of Europe’ once again
  • Moves toward environmental deregulation could hasten the decline of our natural world, for example by leading to more sewage in rivers and loss of local green space
  • Environmental damage from deregulation could put public health and wellbeing at risk

As Prime Minister Liz Truss marks her third week in office she will receive a letter signed by 78 environmental, animal welfare and heritage organisations warning of the environmental, social and economic damage that could be caused by deregulation. This also comes as Ranil Jayawardena, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, prepares to give his speech at Conservative Party Conference.

The letter, from groups including RSPB, CPRE the Countryside Charity, and Rivers Trust highlights how proposals within last week’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill and the Planning and Infrastructure Bill could undermine the Government's chances of meeting its own legal targets on climate change and nature restoration. The resulting lack of protection for nature also risks reducing the quality of life for millions of people who rely on local natural spaces for their health and wellbeing.

Far from being the boost to business that they’re pitched as, the deregulatory reforms would create uncertainty for businesses at a time of high vulnerability and desire for stability. The organisations also warn the Prime Minister that the UK risks worsening the quality of life for millions of farm and companion animals, as well as ruining its global reputation as an animal welfare leader, if deregulation is allowed to impact animal welfare laws.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“Destroying nature destroys the fundamentals of health, happiness and prosperity.”

“All the positive promises this government has made for nature are jeopardised by a deregulatory approach. Scrapping EU environment laws, weakening planning protections, and diluting environmental farming reforms could cast this country once again as the Dirty Man of Europe.

“The irony is that it would not even deliver the business benefits that some politicians hope for. In fact, shaking up well-established green laws would create uncertainty and put our high-standards economy at risk at a time when businesses need confidence to support a sustainable economy.”

Mark Lloyd, CEO of Rivers Trust, said:

“The health of our beloved British rivers is currently flatlining at best and, if the government do rip up the regulatory book, they could be well and truly doomed. It is clear that people across the country and across the political spectrum are demanding healthier rivers as they’ve made their voices heard on the wicked problem of sewage pollution. Further deregulation will lead to death by a thousand cuts, with a cocktail of pollution from sewage, agriculture, and industry destroying the precious lifeblood of our landscape.”

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said:

“The evidence is clear, we need urgent action to restore our natural world. We welcomed the previous Government setting the 2030 target to halt species decline in the Environment Act. But the facts reveal that nature is in crisis, half of our wildlife is in decline and more than one in ten UK species are on the brink of extinction. Half-hearted reassurances or vague placatory words from this Government will not keep common species common or save our most vulnerable wildlife when the very legislation that protects our wild spaces from exploitation and development and would help deliver that 2030 target is under threat. People across the UK are rightly concerned that our Government has launched an attack on nature.

“Our Prime Minister and the Secretary of State must show how the UK will continue to protect the areas of our country that are most important to the recovery of our wildlife and restoration of our wild spaces. We need powerful new legislation to replace the protections we helped to write for the EU, that recognises the importance of a vibrant natural world to people, the economy and our national identity.”

Commenting on the threat of deregulation, Paul Miner, acting director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

“Deregulation is about lowering our standards for short term economic gains. At its heart, this is about what kind of country we want to live in. If we want to create thriving communities living in harmony with nature, then we need basic standards that set the bar for all new developments. Attractive, affordable homes in nature-friendly areas with good public transport are the bare minimum we should aspire to.

“The alternative, being pushed by this government with its investment zones, is a race to the bottom – poor quality indentikit houses in a trashed environment that drags urban sprawl ever further into the countryside. We welcome investment in the countryside – so long as it is focussed on community need, not developer greed.”

The letter to the Prime Minister comes against a backdrop of worrying numbers for nature:

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