Top points to make when writing to your local MP
We must have a strong Environment Act that delivers for nature. To achieve this, we need enough MP’s support the amendments that are needed. The most important of these is called NC5 and will require Government to set a clear, legally binding target in the Bill to reverse the decline of species and habitats within a decade. If you do one thing for wildlife, please write to your MP using this handy template (insert link to TWT message) asking them to support this amendment.
We know that reading large Government documents can be hard work, so we have summarised and explained the key points for you, along with the view of the Trust. You may wish to refer to these points when contacting your MP.
Embedding nature’s recovery in law
This is the top priority for the Wildlife Trusts. The bill requires government to produce ‘environmental improvement plans.’ The Wildlife Trust’s strongly feel these plans must be supported by an amendment (NC5) so the bill contains a clear, legally binding target to reverse wildlife declines within a decade. This should accompany a requirement for public bodies to take action to contribute to nature’s recovery rather than just consider it.
Reporting and monitoring
There must be clear responsibilities for monitoring and reporting, with sufficient resources provided to support this. Where monitoring identifies that strategies aren’t working these strategies must be revised or replaced immediately.
The four key principles mentioned in the blog must be retained and this means rejecting the proposed amendments NC2, NC3 and 4, all of which significantly weaken existing protections for wildlife. To prevent future U-turns to weaken wildlife laws, a new principle of non-regression should be added.
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)
One of the highlights of the bill, requiring all new housing and commercial developments to deliver at least 10% improvement in the quantity and/or quality of wildlife habitat. Whilst the Wildlife Trust welcomes this important commitment, a 20% improvement would be more fitting for an ecological emergency. The requirement to deliver BNG should be extended to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects where they go through a protected site or landscape.
Further safeguards are needed to ensure that delivering BNG off-site (Biodiversity Offsetting) does not permit destruction of core parts of the Nature Recovery Network or important populations of threatened species on site.
Office of Environmental Protection
The Office of Environmental Protection must be independent of Government and the Secretary of State must not have the power to overrule OEP decisions in cases of non-compliance. The bill also must strengthen the duty of the Office for Environmental Protection, requiring it to take some action against all failures not just the most serious ones.
There should be a requirement to produce plans to improve the condition of designated sites that are persistently in unfavourable condition.
It may seem strange when we suffer from flooding, but in some parts of the county and UK rivers and streams are running dry as too much water is being taken out for housing, farming and industry. The proposed amendment 3 will prevents wildlife being impacted by too much water being taken from rivers and streams.
Hedgehogs are one of the fastest declining mammals in the UK. Support is needed for amendment NC4 that will introduces formal legal protection for hedgehogs. Alongside this it is important to ensure that current protections for threatened species are retained, with cases of ‘overriding public interest’ only being considered in imperative circumstances. This means rejecting amendments to subsections 1 and 2.
Wildlife and development
The bill needs to contain tighter regulation of biodiversity offsetting and development licensing to prevent destruction of core parts of the Nature Recovery Network and vital populations of threatened species. Local authorities need greater powers to tackle the cumulative impact of multiple developments on wildlife and ecological networks.
This would enable land to be committed to wildlife for 30 years and this would be the requirement for delivering net gain. Whist conservation covenants are a positive tool they should secure land in perpetuity, particularly as in some cases they are replacing valuable habitats that have been lost.