Standing up for Nature
Its tempting to just cry into my beer and say nothing. Its possible and may be highly likely, that few care what happens to Natural England these days. But for my part as an insider doing my best for nature (a dirty word these days) conservation the appointment of Andrew Sells is the final diabolical act of a totally discredited 'Green' government (not that I ever believed a word of it), that in regards to a democratic process should concern all of us. From where I'm sitting and it isn't comfortable this smacks of classic 'jobs for the boys', even more so when you realise Sells is a major donor to Tory party.
Worth checking out Miles Kings blog on history of NE and predecessor body Chairs http://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/chairs-past-present-and-future/. Perhaps its always been this way as outlined by Miles (one very excellent woman it has to be said) but honestly this appointment stinks.
So where the hell does that leave Natural England and its role in nature conservation? What on earth will the new chair think next time when a SSSI notification to protect nightingales (birds v people angle) or even worse an NVC plant community is presented to him? Could be an interesting nee, worrying tenure.
This appointment is to be scrutinised next week in Parliament. Well that's that then!
It's fair to assume that this appointment has been made to bring NE even further under control and facilitate the (mythical) need to 'speed up' planning. But it may not go quite the way intended: had the Government set a feasible level of forest sales, FC woods would be selling with just grumbles right now. But they went too far and everyone knows what happened. A deep-seated public concern has virtually killed onshore wind, threatens HS2 and will almost certainly stop fracking before its even started, despite generous bribes.
The cracks are already showing with David MacDonald coming out with his concerns over the badger cull. There can be little doubt that he has been arguing as strongly as he can from within the Government tent. there'll be people who say 'why didn't he come out before' and 'why doesn't he resign'. I think he has judged the balance between arguing within the system and coming out with his views well, and I certainly don't think he should resign - it would be easy and produce a headline or two, but it is far more important we have someone like him arguing forcefully and informed for the natural world - and unlike so many members of so many boards these days he is not muzzled by a dependence on these Government jobs which is undermining more and more quangos.
I am not too sure that I share the optimism of previous comments. It was suggested on this blog that Caroline Spelman paid a price when the tory hierachy took displeasure at her failure to throw NE on the bonfire of the quangos. We know too that only the Lib Dems saved it from Opats' axe. Perhaps he will soon be 'Expats' for that failure if he also fails to make the badger slaughter work.
Sorry for the pessimism, but I think Sells is the man to steer NE into dismemberment with parts hived off to RPA (all the Agri - environment money) where everything can be done at a computer, or to EA. The rump of NE will then be a small part of a bigger regulator with different culture. We will then have no official nature conservation body in England for the first time in more than sixty years.
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