The Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 was one of the major environmental achievements of the last Labour government but, to be fair, the Shadow Defra team, including Richard Benyon who is now a junior Defra minister, were very supportive of the thrust of the legislation too. At times, the progress of the Act became as much of a team effort as you are ever likely to get in an adversarial political system.
But now the Wildlife Trusts are warning that the promised coherent network of Marine Conservation Zones promised by the coalition (although there is no Liberal Democrat in Defra) government is under threat. They fear that fewer than 30 (maybe low 20s) of the 127 marine sites around the coast of England which have been identified by regional stakeholder groups will actually go forward to Defra.
Is this because the criteria for choosing sites were changed very late in the process by the JNCC? If so, did Defra nudge any changes that happened? Is it not a monumental waste of people’s time to ask them to contribute according to one set of rules, in a Big Society kind of way, and then make their deliberations academic by changing criteria?
This sounds very odd and extremely worrying.
More should become evident early next week when this blog will, no doubt, return to this subject. If anyone has a good idea of what is happening then I’d be interested to hear from them.