It’ll be a while, no doubt, before the Treasury Minister, Chloe Smith replies to my MP, Louise Mensch, to tell me the basis of the Chancellor‘s decision to review the Habitat Regulations that he announced, with (it seemed to me) a certain degree of vindictive delight, in his Autumn Statement.
At the moment I can only guess. Might it be linked to his announcement in the same Autumn Statement that the government would look at all options for another London airport – saving only a third runway at Heathrow? Is the Chancellor’s heart set on an airport in the Thames Estuary and has he noticed that this might rub up against the Outer Thames Estuary SPA, the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA, The Essex Estuaries SAC or the Margate and Long Sands SAC?
And I see that it hasn’t taken long for another consortium to be expressing interest in the Severn Barrage where it is claimed that government Ministers are in talks with a consortium interested in this project. The cost of the barrage seems to have doubled in the last few years to £34bn. The Severn Estuary is an SPA and SAC and the Rivers Wye and Usk are SACs too.
Is it just a coincidence that government is interested in large expensive infrastructure projects in places where nature is currently protected and is at the same time talking of reviewing the ways by which that protection is implemented? Surely it must be a coincidence – what other explanation is there?