After the shock that arrived about 130 yesterday morning when it became clear that the exit poll was right and all the polls had been wrong (or rather had not picked up that the undecideds would vote Tory), I started to wonder what impact a Tory Government with a weak majority might have on Nature over the next Five years.
This is really just a few first thoughts, so please don’t hold my feet to the fire if I get it wrong. I may be overplaying the influence of the hard right in the forthcoming Government, but I do see them in a much stronger position to demand concessions in return for being well behaved this time round (they were not in the last Parliament but it didnt matter so much as the Coalition had a proper working majority.)
- Abolition of DECC, replaced by Department of Energy.
- Abolition of DCMS, dismembered parts go to various departments, including BIS.
- Abolition of Defra, merger with DCMS, BIS and/or the Department of Energy.
- Badger cull rolled out to 25 areas, reducing badger populations by 70% in those areas.
- A free vote on repealing the hunting Act, but with a small majority it won’t get through.
- Natural England either merged with EA and/or required to consider “economic growth” when making all decisions on eg new SSSI notifications.
- Moves to support the EU in weakening the Nature Directives (Birds and Habitats).
- Further weakening of implementation of other EU Directives such as EIA, SEA, under Red Tape Challenge 2.
- Abandonment of Biodiversity 2020, introduction of new 25 year Natural Capital plan.
- A large scale sell off of Public Land. This will include areas which are either already recognised as being highly valuable for nature, or not.
- Pressure from landowners will prevent further reintroductions of large mammals (Lynx) or the expansion of existing populations of Beaver.
- Wild Boar may be re-eradicated.
- Further relaxation of the planning laws, making it easier to build on greenfield sites as well as brownfields – a possible reform of the Green Belt.
- Introduction of Biodiversity Offsetting and incorporation into the NPPF.
- Introduction of trading in biodiversity credits.
- Introduction of GMO crops.
- Repeal on ban of Neonics.
- Very relaxed implementation of Cross Compliance (or at least as relaxed as possible within EU rules.)
- Very onerous implementation of standards for Agri-Environment Scheme entrants.
- Negotiating position to abolish the CAP in 2022.
- Abandonment of Terrestrial Wind Farm and Solar Farm subsidies.
- Fracking introduced to Britain.
- Possible repeal of the Climate Change Act.
- Payments introduced for landowners to store floodwater on their land.
- All Schools will become Academies, total loss of Education function within Local Authorities.
- Further heavy cuts to Local Authorities – ecological functions (including planning) will be outsourced or shared between authorities.
- Management/ownership of Parks and other open spaces will be divested to local community groups.
- A PPG17 type review to identify “surplus” land will see much more sold off to cover loss of central government income. Total sale of remaining County Farm estates.
- Charities are further prevented from lobbying and “political activity” is redefined to make it much harder for Charities to speak out on work to change policy.
- The London Garden Bridge, but eco-activists secretly sow Japanese knotweed into the concrete structure while it being built, turning it into an impenetrable knotweed jungle. It is subsequently destroyed.
If this sounds rather depressing, I’m sorry and I may be painting an overly dark picture. How many of these things will actually happen depends on how society views nature and how much nature is valued. A small Government majority means that people like Zac Goldsmith; and others who are sympathetic to nature, become really key figures within the Tory ranks.
Indeed Miles it is depressing, the paint colour you elected to use may be over dark but sadly I suspect you may not be too far off the mark.
Real conservationists will have to do some of that blue sky thinking outside the box to challenge the assault on the environment and our ever decreasing wildlife. The State of Nature 2020 will be a slim even more depressing tome?
It will also see the true colours of the larger NGO, will they be part of the blue wash gesture in the form of project managers quitened with crumbs or will they rise wildlifes defence?
Time, as ever will reveal all …. turbulent and testing times ahead?
I have resisted the temptation to write about how the big NGOs will react and indeed what they have been doing during the election.
I may be wrong but I don’t think the 2-year neonics moratorium is subject to repeal – it just lapses or gets extended. In the longer term we need a much better approvals and regulatory system for pesticides which looks at the whole picture downstream and is not focused on a standard set of indicator organisms. And not run by the industry.
Future fields? Looks like a field of first earlies in Cheshire in late 70s.
thanks John. Yes repeal probably isnt the right word, just non-renewal.
A lot of plastic has appeared in fields around Dorchester this Spring – I can’t believe it’s for potatoes as the soils/climate is wrong. Could it be to protect early planted Maize?
Probably maize – you’ll soon see. Surprising that it’s worth it so far south. The plastic film is biodegradable, allegedly. Unlike the potato plastic of the 70s which was tough enough to bag and heat-seal the spuds as they were lifted. Anyway, that was the tale the landlord in the Nag’s Head believed
thanks John – biodegradable? I wondered what happened to it after it was used.
And then there’s TTIP …
On a practical level I’m wondering if a “coherent ecological network of marine protected areas is now “dead in the water”, particularly in the Irish Sea, with wrangling over devolution keeping MCZ out of St George’s Channel, ineffectual Defra wrangling with the County Down fishing fleet keeping them out of the open Irish Sea and Scottish attention in more glamorous” places than the North Channel and the Solway Firth. Ho, hum.
I fear we NGOs may be expected to “stick to our knitting” of managing nature reserves and maybe there’ll be another move to foist management of National Nature Reserves on us too. (Personally also rather worrying when land management isn’t one’s forte…)
thanks Dave. Yes the NNR sell-off may resurface, and I expect we will hear more about the Detailed Notification Review for SSSIs.
Probably best if we do stick to the knitting….not that I’m actually an NGO person at the moment.
Worryingly, knitting’s never been one of my strengths either. I’ll just have to hope that “spinning and weaving” of arguments will still be considered charitable – and worth members and funders paying for, or enslavement by project funding becomes the risk as alluded to by mid-lark above – though smaller NGOs are arguably more vulnerable than big ones, especially if they’ve no capital cushion.
I may be starting work on my “loom” on the West Pennine Moors non SSSI ere long. I feel a quotation from ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ coming on: the one about “jam tomorrow, jam yesterday but never jam today…
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Knitting . . . weaving . . . as long as the fabric we create between the different groups who will now have to work together more closely than ever to protect our precious environment, its creatures and, ultimately, ourselves is strong. Definitely no delicate lace here with gaps in the pattern to give bulldozers and agribusiness an unimpeded way over/through our countryside.
thanks Aurora. We definitely need to reclaim the value and power of knitting and weaving as crafts and metaphors.
These are dark days. From your list, the one that possibly worries me the most is the roll out of selling off public land. Although local groups, such as Save Stickle Tarn, are working hard to protect their wild places, they’re mainly working independently, and each sell off is a fresh battle requiring huge amounts of dedication and commitment from locals. Although the Ramblers are concerned about access rights, I can’t see them spearheading a national campaign against the threat to our national parks. But it needs a national coordinating body to harness public opinion and support local groups.Can’t see where this will come from. Maybe people don’t realise what they have, until its gone! Ironic that the battles ahead are so similar to the ones our grandparents fought 100 years ago. Hoped we might have moved on.
thanks Jos. I agree, the continuing and increasing pace of the sell-off is one of the biggest threats to nature in England currently. But also remember the success of the Save our Forests campaign. It can be done.
When Natural England dedicated National Nature Reserves as Open Access it was a calculated and deliberate tactic to diffuse any potential opposition by the Ramblers of any future sell off / disposal of NNRs.
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