RSPB press release

The RSPB is today warning that vital laws that protect nature in England will be under threat in Autumn when the new Prime Minister assumes office.

The warning comes as both candidates in the Conservative Party leadership contest have spoken recently of their commitment to reviewing remaining EU laws currently in English legislation. This, the RSPB says, would include the Habitats Regulations.

Alice Hardiman, head of policy at the RSPB said: “The unglamorously named Habitats Regulations ensure that nature is considered in planning decisions where it would be all too easy, and convenient, to ignore it. These laws have been vital to protecting some of our most vulnerable wildlife for the last 30 years.

Caught up in a drive for deregulation, scrapping them is presented as a simple option, easy to implement because nature has no voice to defend itself.

An example of the importance of this legislation can be found in Dorset where the lowland heaths of Purbeck and East Dorset are internationally important for rare wildlife, including Dartford warbler, sand lizard and ladybird spider. In the past 200 years large areas of lowland heathland have been lost due to housing, roads and other urban development.

However, over the past twenty years, these direct losses have largely stopped thanks to the Habitats Regulations, which require that designated heathland sites are protected. New houses are now directed away from a buffer of 400m around any protected heathland in Purbeck and wider Dorset. This, alongside measures to provide alternative areas of greenspace for dog owners and other residents to enjoy nature without disturbing vulnerable wildlife, the RSPB say is significantly reducing unintended impacts on our most precious sites.

And with similar examples across the country of legal protection ensuring wild spaces can thrive as places that are important to local communities and havens for wildlife.

This week the RSPB is calling on everyone to contact their local MP about ensuring the special places we all enjoy stay protected for future generations.

Alice Hardiman continued: “Without the legal backing and force of the Habitats Regulations, there is a serious risk of long-term deterioration and loss of these incredible Dorset heathlands.” 

We must lend it our voice. We must speak up now to protect the laws that protect nature. We must show MPs that people understand how important these laws are for the places and species they love. This is the crucial first step in ensuring the new Prime Minister thinks twice about dismantling the Habitats Regulations in the autumn.

The RSPB says that instead of seeking to scrap them, the Government should be putting their energies into urgently needed actions to support and improve the regulations: completing the network of protected sites; supporting the creation of more places for wildlife; making sure that all existing wildlife sites are well-managed; and helping to tackle pressures like pollution.

The wildlife charity states that these are the actions that will help deliver the UK’s global commitments to manage 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030.

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “We have such a short window to recover nature. Our wildlife needs to be on the road to recovery by 2030, or we risk destroying our own life-support system.  In that context, proven effective laws should be maintained and strengthened – and definitely not weakened in any way. Nature doesn’t have time for us to backtrack, to throw aside decades of case law and start all over again.  Businesses can’t afford decades of uncertainty about where and how they can build in harmony with nature. We need to stop looking backward, and start looking forward.

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