Last year, Prime Minister Johnson, standing behind a banner that read BUILD BUILD BUILD, condemned all our efforts to protect the biodiversity of the Lambrok corridor as newt-counting. This was just the first move in what is beginning to look like a long-term campaign to benefit developers at the cost of our rapidly deteriorating environment. The latest move, hidden in the shadows of an obscure website, proposes restricting the reach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Build build build by Andrew Parsons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) flickr.com
The Wildlife and Countryside Act mandates legal protections for rare flora and fauna considered at risk: it is illegal to harm these at-risk species or their habitat. For decades, the Act has empowered conservation movements to challenge the environmental costs of infra-structure and development schemes. It is the muscle behind our on-going objections to developers’ plans for the three sites (H2.4 / H2.5 and H2.6) in the greenspace between Trowbridge and Southwick.
In the course of the Wildlife and Countryside Act’s regular five-year review, the government has proposed abandoning the Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s (JNCC) classification of nationally endangered species, and using the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) global classification in its stead. This could mean dropping safeguards for all currently protected species except those at the worst end of the IUCN’s scale: imminent risk of extinction.
In the reserve, under these new proposals our slow worms, common newts, grass snakes and adders, water voles and brown hares could all lose the legal protection afforded them by the 1981 Act.
Imminent danger of extinction is a bar set too high for our crowded island’s failing biodiversity. It exposes too many of our endangered species to the risks of increased habitat loss and urbanisation. It might also expose this government’s priorities: analysis has revealed that 13% of the Conservative Party’s donations in the first three months of 2021 came from property developers and companies.
This is an extract from the opening policy statement of the Environment Bill 2020 that, half way through 2021, is still languishing, somewhere between its 2nd and 3rd readings, before some Westminster committee:
The Environment Bill will help deliver the government’s manifesto commitment to delivering the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. It is part of the wider government response to the clear and scientific case, and growing public demand, for a step-change in environmental protection and recovery.
We newt-counters have to hold this government to its promises; we have to demand that step change in environmental protection and recovery is taken forward, not back. Already, more than thirty conservation organisations, every one of them devoted to counting something, have written to ministers with their concerns. Make your feelings known to our local MP, Andrew Murrison, at:
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Phone: 01225 358584
Fax: 01225 358583
Wiltshire Council’s cabinet doesn’t seem to have an environment portfolio but the closest (and perhaps most apt) is the cabinet member for Development Management, Strategic Planning and Climate Change: Cllr Nick Botterill. He can be reached at:
Cabinet Office, County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN
Mobile: 07956 176255
Let’s make newt-counting count!