Headlines: October 2nd, 2006



The Government’s new official watchdog for the wildlife and the countryside, which begins its work this week, is at risk of being too poor and too weak to make a difference, according to environmental campaigners. The concerns over Natural England have been raised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England as the new body takes over responsibility for work formerly done by English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service.

The CPRE is worried that cuts to the core funding of the new body have seriously weakened it as it begins its work. Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy at CPRE, said one of the most important aspects of Natural England’s work should be to make a substantial contribution to safeguarding the quality of life for everyone and the CPRE is keen that the new organisations should show leadership in setting up robust and effective monitoring of countryside quality and in particular, tranquility. The Government promised this in 2000 but the CPRE said this had yet to be fully achieved.

“There is also a long term threat to the level of funding Natural England will be able to award to farmers to manage and enhance our landscapes and the wildlife that inhabits them. The farming community has been told for years that it should commit itself to delivering things the public want – healthy, abundant wildlife, characterful landscapes and more extensive public access to the countryside,” Tom Oliver said. He warned that unless the Government acted swiftly and decisively, there would simply not be the resources for farmers to undertake environmentally sensitive land management.

The CPRE said Natural England was facing big challenges even before it began its work. The CPRE added that it was looking forward to working with the new agency to help it secure the resources it would need to deliver a high quality environment for both town and country.