THE RSPB IS WARNING that vital laws protecting nature in England will be under threat in Autumn when the new Prime Minister assumes office. The national wildlife charity says that England needs these laws as it faces a real challenge to overcome its nature depleted status and the continued threat of losing internationally important species and habitats.
The warning comes as both candidates in the Conservative Party leadership contest have spoken recently of their commitment to reviewing remaining EU laws currently in English legislation. This, the RSPB says, would include the Habitats Regulations.
Alice Hardiman, head of policy at the RSPB said: “The unglamorously named Habitats Regulations ensure that nature is considered in planning decisions where it would be all too easy, and convenient, to ignore it. These laws have been vital to protecting some of our most vulnerable wildlife for the last 30 years. Caught up in a drive for deregulation, scrapping them is presented as a simple option, easy to implement because nature has no voice to defend itself.”
An example of the importance of this legislation can be found in the Thames Estuary, which is home to hundreds of thousands of wildfowl and wading birds each year. But it is subject to high levels of residential and commercial development. The habitats regulations have long provided a vital framework within which development decisions can be made with nature in mind, protecting the riverscape for both nature and people and giving confidence to industry that it is doing the right thing.
In the northern uplands, many thousands of square kilometres are protected through the habitat regulations for their internationally important blanket bogs. This means these places have special consideration in terms of targeted funding for vital restoration work. The Government has also used the regulations and site designations to protect these places from the unsustainable practices such as burning.
And similar examples of legal protection across the country ensure wild spaces can thrive as places that are important to local communities and havens for wildlife. The RSPB is calling on everyone to contact their local MP about ensuring the special places we all enjoy stay protected for future generations.
Alice Hardiman continued: “Without the legal backing and force of the Habitats Regulations, there is a serious risk of long-term deterioration and loss of these incredible Dorset heathlands.” We must lend it our voice. We must speak up now to protect the laws that protect nature. We must show MPs that people understand how important these laws are for the places and species they love. This is the crucial first step in ensuring the new Prime Minister thinks twice about dismantling the Habitats Regulations in the autumn.”
The RSPB says that instead of seeking to scrap them, the Government should be putting their energies into urgently needed actions to support and improve the regulations: completing the network of protected sites; supporting the creation of more places for wildlife; making sure that all existing wildlife sites are well-managed; and helping to tackle pressures like pollution.
The wildlife charity states that these are the actions that will help deliver the UK’s global commitments to manage 30 per cent of land and sea for nature by 2030.
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “We have such a short window to recover nature. Our wildlife needs to be on the road to recovery by 2030, or we risk destroying our own life-support system. In that context, proven effective laws should be maintained and strengthened – and definitely not weakened in any way. Nature doesn’t have time for us to backtrack, to throw aside decades of case law and start all over again. Businesses can’t afford decades of uncertainty about where and how they can build in harmony with nature. We need to stop looking backward, and start looking forward.”
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