Headlines: October 29th, 2007

Campaigners are claiming today that while the Government’s Environmental watchdog has made progress it still has a lot to do to show it can really protect landscapes and wildlife. The verdict comes from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which today issues a report into the work of Natural England in the year since its creation.

Areas of concern identified by CPRE include planning policy and the Green Belt where it believes there are signs that Natural England’s strategic direction has not so far got to grips with threats to the countryside. CPRE is also worried that the policy of setting a target to facilitate renewable energy investment could undermine Natural England’s legal duties to protect landscape and wildlife.

Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy at CPRE said the new agency had a crucial role to play in standing up for the beauty of the country’s landscape and the health of its wildlife. “But CPRE is yet to be convinced that the new agency will be effective in engaging with the powerful threat of a weakened planning system and mounting pressure for over-development beyond environmental capacity,” he added.

There were signs Mr. Oliver said that across the country Natural England was building good working relationships with CPRE and other environmental organisations. It was important, he said, that this should continue, especially at a regional level where more and more development decisions were being made.

He added that the potential damage to the natural environment from climate change and relentless development required decisive action and CPRE’s suggested priorities for Natural England include reinforcing support for the Green Belt and recognition of planning as the main means of securing development within environmental capacity.