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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what happened in the last month. 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 Zoe Davies. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

Green watchdog…or poodle?

This month saw the Government publish its long-awaited consultation on the shape of a new green watchdog, and on how to bring key EU environmental principles into UK law. While welcoming the consultation in principle, Link expressed grave concern that the watchdog could be left toothless without stronger legal powers than those proposed in the consultation, and that environmental protections could be watered down unless they are enshrined in a new Environment Act.

We are calling for the new watchdog to be given: powers to initiate legal proceedings; sufficient funding and; a robust mandate. This would align with the European Commission and European Court of Justice (ECJ), which have strong powers to enforce environmental protections in Member States, and have proven effective in ensuring real action. Indeed, the UK, along with five other Member States, have just this month been referred to the ECJ for failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

Link will be making its views clear in responding to this consultation, along with submitting evidence to an inquiry on the subject being carried out on the by the Environmental Audit Committee.

Link’s response to Health and Harmony consultation

In May, Link responded to the Government’s much anticipated ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation. The Government received 44,000 responses to the consultation, over half of which came from Link members and their supporters. In our detailed response, we welcomed the Government’s ambition, but called for more clarity and commitment in the Agriculture Bill on the funding and resources that will be required to make this ambition a reality. Throughout the consultation period, members and some external stakeholders contributed to a series of twelve blogs, which zoomed in on different aspects of the consultation paper. With Defra, Link also co-hosted a workshop to explore key elements of the consultation.

National Planning Policy Framework

Link has responded to the Government’s consultation on a draft new National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF). We welcomed some aspects of its content, such as recognition of the need to protect ancient woodland.

However, we expressed some significant concerns too. Most notably, the new draft fails to give any protection to Local Wildlife Sites and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are no longer referenced, a retrograde step for sustainable development. Overall, the current draft prioritises housing targets over all other issues, to such an extent that environmental and social matters appear secondary. This is contrary to the aspirations of the 25 Year Environment Plan, of which the NPPF should take full account.

In June, Link members will meet Simon Gallagher, Director of Planning at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to discuss our response further.

Treasury consults on plastic pollution

Tackling the plastic tide currently suffocating our seas requires effective legislation and regulation from source to sea. Link members therefore responded to the Treasury’s consultation exploring how the tax system could be used to address plastic pollution.

The Link response, supported by 28 organisations from across the UK, called for a mixture of bans, taxes and charges to incentivise reduction and better design. Focusing on four of the most common single use plastics (plastic sachets, single use plastic cups, black and coloured plastic, and takeaway packaging), members advocated strongly for the introduction of an extended producer responsibility system. This would ensure producers cover the full life cycle cost of plastic products. At the same time, we support consumers being encouraged to reduce their single use plastic consumption through charges similar to the plastic bag charge which has already seen an impact across the UK.

May Blogs and Publications

We had a flurry of publications in May with the publication of our Annual Report and multiple consultation responses on key issues including farming, planning, and plastics.

We kicked off the month with the two further blogs in our Agriculture series - a guest blog from Laura Mackenzie of the Soil Association on the need for a net zero farming future and a piece from Jenny Hawley at Plantlife on the future of our meadows.

On marine issues we published two fascinating articles - one from Amy Hill at Client Earth on protecting the ocean after Brexit and another from Peter Kemple Hardy at World Animal Protection on turtles and ghost gear.

Further blogs included a cheering tribute to the dawn chorus, an exploration of the prioritisation of housing over heritage, a rediscovering of woodland pasture, an examination of the water infrastructure challenge and a review of the challenges for National Parks in the 21st Century.

To contribute a blog for the Link website, please contact Emma Adler, Link’s Communications Manager.

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

Members Only: Save the Date - Environment Links UK Conference, 2-3 October 2018

On 2 and 3 October 2018, Link will be hosting the biennial Environment Links UK Conference in London. The conference is always an excellent opportunity to bring together members of the four UK Links to share ideas and develop our joint approach to issues of shared concern. More details to follow – but for now, save the date!

Link is 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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