George Osborne doesn’t get the environment and he doesn’t seem to like it.
These are the most relevant parts of the Coalition Government’s (yes, the LibDems are in there too) thoughts on the Habitats Directive (which was largely written by that ultra-leftie, Stanley Johnson (yes, Boris’s sire)).
This passage comes from that part of the National Infrastructure Plan 2011 (page 111) which is about solving problems for developers, rather than in the section about the UK’s Environmental Systems (starts page 72 and is about water and waste). Clearly the Chancellor (sorry – the coalition government) regard environment as water and waste and regard wildlife as an impediment to concrete pouring.
The highlighting is mine.
6.26 The European Union’s habitats and wild bird directives protect Europe’s most precious ecosystems, flora and fauna. The Government strongly supports this objective but is keen to ensure that compliance with the directives does not lead to unnecessary costs and delays in the delivery of important, sustainable infrastructure projects, such as offshore wind developments. In order to tackle problems, the Government is reviewing the directives as currently implemented in England by Budget 2012 and has published terms of reference for this work. In addition the Government will:
• establish a Defra-led problem-solving unit to address blockages for developments where compliance with the directives is particularly complex or has large impacts;
• make it easier for businesses to understand what they must do to comply with the directives by improving Natural England’s support and assistance offer to developers and consulting on updated guidance before Budget 2012; and
• give industry representation on a group chaired by Ministers so it can raise concerns deriving from the Directive at the top of Government
6.27 In addition, the Government can announce progress on a number of projects which have been held back by difficulties stemming from the directives:
• the Marine Management Organisation and the Port of Falmouth have agreed a way forward on a scientific trial to resolve environmental issues around development of the harbour. A decision on the developer’s marine licence application will follow if the trial succeeds. If this application is then successful, it is anticipated that development could proceed in early 2013;
• Natural England have confirmed that environmental issues relating to the Habitats Directive need not cause delay to the Able Marine Energy Park, as satisfactory options are available to address the main concerns stemming from the directive; and
• Natural England is working closely with Chiltern Railways to resolve licensing issues at the Wolvercote tunnel by January subject to receipt of satisfactory information from the company.
6.28 Combined with reform to terrestrial planning, the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) has introduced a new marine planning and licensing system designed to provide regulatory simplicity and certainty for developers. Marine Plans will form a framework for sustainable development, and inform licensing decisions. Impact assessments have estimated that a completed network of Marine Plans in England will provide benefits of £50 million per year in reduced industry burdens due to the greater certainty and the evidence base that plans will provide. This is in addition to anticipated localised socio-economic and environmental benefits. The approach has support across industry stakeholders and environmental groups for providing regulatory simplicity and certainty, backed up by clear evidence and the involvement of stakeholders and coastal communities. The Marine Management Organisation is currently engaging with stakeholders as part of its development of the first two English Marine Plan areas, with a complete network of Plans to be in place by 2022.
Initial thoughts from me:
Thames Crossing and new London Airport might depend on bending the rules around the EU-wide Nature Directives. The Directives apply to onshore windfarms as well as offshore ones.