Osborne has a go at environment again

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.


Habitats Directive
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.
Marine Planning
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.



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13 Replies to “Osborne has a go at environment again”

  1. Just SO angry! The chancellor really does seem hellbent on growth at any cost! To even contemplate the destruction of the Thames estuary, its wildlife and communities is absolute lunacy!
    Our wildlife laws are there to protect wildlife and habitats from inappropriate development, it is precisely what they were put in place for.
    To blame the natural world for an economic disaster beggars belief and then to trash it in the name of growth is unforgivable. The Chancellor will go down in history as the man who fiddled while the environment burned.
    Friends of the North Kent Marshes

    1. Gill - I think I know a little about how you are feeling. We've been there before. I think I said that this issue would come back some time but I didn;'t expect it to be quite so soon. Keep that anger because we will all need it.

  2. In 2007 David Milliband said:

    'Footloose companies do not choose to locate their high paid employees in unattractive locations - however good the airport links.'

    He's right - what sort of country do we see ourselves as in 20 years time when China and India have taken over the global economy ? Just how important will quality of life be in attracting global business to locate in the UK ?

  3. You are right Mark it is very worrying the approach that Mr Osborne (and Mr Boris Johnson re- his airport in the Thames Estuary) take to the environment. (I think the Philistines might have been able do a better job than them protecting our natural biodiversity and environment had they been around now). It seems from today's news that our economic woes are going to be with us for rather longer than Mr Osborne first thought maybe for the next or 7/8 years. However the serious damage that some (not all) of their ideas may do to our wildlife and environment will last much much longer than their 7/8 years, probably for ever. Having said that, I attended the RSPB's Marine Question time today with the Minister, Mr Benyon and was much impressed by his approach and genuine environmental concerns. So not all parts of the Government are the "Blackest Government Ever". I think we need to identify this difference when it is appropriate. Conservationists and those concern about our future environment need to very much support Mr Benyon and his efforts at DEFRA and to help, where possible, to try to divert or hold back the black environmental "tsunami" that seems to be coming from the direction of the Treasury and, to some extent, elsewhere in some political circles.

    1. Alan - I saw you on the webcast. I think Richard Benyon is a nice man, and well-meaning but Defra aren't doing much in the marine environment. And he has fallen in with a bad lot, by choice, the Osbornes of this world.

  4. Surely over time the sign of progress as a society is the increasing protection of environment. I am stunned that Osborne wants to unpick all the work that has gone before. We will only ever be sustainable when we come up with ideas that work with nature protecting and restoring what we have whilst developing and generating jobs, all it takes is a bit of intelligence.................ahh I see where the problem lies......

    It also smells of blatant opportunistic lobbying by ports, renewables, developers etc.

  5. As he is a local (Cheshire) MP, I met Mr Osborne in August 2010 and took him on a walk around a nature reserve in his constituency. He was knowledgeable on climate change and carbon tax, and later made sound comments supporting phasing out peat extraction for horticultural use http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/peat-preservation.html#cr.

    But a lot has happened in a year, and it seems that economic pressures are needlessly over-riding everything. I think we might have to get him out in the field again!

    1. David - there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting to have an impact.. Good luck!

  6. I cannot believe that these awful proposals have been resurrected. A reminder for those keen to push this idea some of the reasons as to why it was thrown out previously.
    1- The greater Thames estuary (inc Medway & Swale estuaries) is a year round home for internationally important numbers of waterbirds including over 250,000 wintering waterfowl (figs from British Trust for Ornithology). Hence it is internationally recognised as being important for wildlife via its IBA (Important Bird Area) & RAMSAR (listing wetlands of international importance) citings. This area has both UK & EU laws that are supposed to offer the highest levels of protection available.
    2- Airstrike – Birds & planes don’t mix-
    3- Cost- the estimated costs of the last option doubled within a year & no-one was prepared to come up with the money. And this didn’t take account of the additional local infrastructure costs required
    4- The destruction of the one remaining truly rural part of Medway, which is a valuable haven for the people of Medway from the pressures of urban living
    5- The location of the airport -stuck down in the SE of the country on the wrong side of London from the bulk of the UK population.
    Do Boris Johnson, Norman Foster et al not know the above? Forgotten the above? Or for reasons best known to themselves decided to abandon logic altogether?

    1. Michael - thank you and I agree completely. But you cannot do any of this very easily if the Birds and Habitats Directives are respected which is why a 'review' is on the cards.

  7. I readily accept that we are in the direst of economic times and I appreciate that the Coalition Govt has inherited a dreadful mess and that very tough and painful choices need to be made. I had thought (naively as it turns out) that policy makers had moved on from the days of the natural environment being viewed as an expendable resource.
    I thought that one of the headline messages from the Natural Environment White Paper was that the value of natural capital would be a central consideration in economic policy and the way in which economic growth (or lack of) would be quantified. This is clearly contradicted by the Chancellors recent statements and further confirms my suspicions that the current Govt is not operating under a coherent and joined-up strategy and is to a large extent being driven by the ideologies of individual ministers. This is a perhaps what concerns me most, as where does this leave the research and rigourously tested science around which all policy should be based ?
    For the record, I voted for the Liberal Democrats, donated funds at the last two general elections and pushed more leaflets through doors than I care to remember....
    the shame of it all.


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