Blogger: Rachael Murray, Media Officer

We were shocked to hear the chancellor’s attack on vital wildlife rules in his autumn statement.

The chancellor bemoaned the burden of ‘endless social and environmental goals’ on industry and described the Habitats Regulations as a ‘ridiculous cost on British business’, claiming that they amounted to ‘gold plating’ on European legislation. Defra is now set to carry out a review of the regulations.

In the East of England, Habitats Regulations provide safeguards from uncontrolled development to wildlife sites of international importance such as, The Brecks in Norfolk and Suffolk, the Fens in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire and the Greater Thames in Essex.

Paul Forecast, our Regional Director, said: “These rules mean that major developments like ports, airports, roads and housing estates have to pass a series of tests before they are allowed to proceed, tests of genuinely sustainable development.

“The argument appears to be that in these financially tough times, economic growth must be placed above the needs of the environment. 

“This is not only short sighted; it also betrays the huge economic value of the natural environment in the East which, time and time again, has been identified as a key economic driver for the area.

“And let’s be clear, the RSPB is not “anti-development”. Like everyone else, we want to see the economy back on track. But we have to proceed with wisdom. With careful planning, under the requirements of the regulations, developments can work with wildlife, and we have numerous examples of this here in the region.

“On the Norfolk/Suffolk border, for example, conservationists have worked hard with planners and developers to agree on way forward for the proposed dualling of the A11, where internationally important populations of stone curlew should now not be at risk.  Pragmatic solutions are at the heart of many developments here in the East, including the Ouse Washes and the Thames Gateway, where the habitats regulations have been followed for the best outcome.”

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