The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has hit out at the UK’s Conservative Party for potentially “tearing up fundamental protections for wildlife.”
As part of the mini-budget announced on September 23, newly appointed chancellor of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng announced plans to set up low-tax investment zones with relaxed planning restrictions in parts of England.
The government may also put a stop to a scheme that would incentivize farmers to help preserve and enhance wildlife areas.
Taking to Twitter after the announcements, the RSPB, a leading conservation charity, described this action by the government as an “attack on nature,” adding: “If they carry out their plans, nowhere will be safe.”
It said that plans could “potentially tear up the most fundamental legal protections our remaining wildlife has.”
It went on to explain that the country’s most vulnerable waterways, wildlife, and green spaces are facing the biggest threat “in decades.”
The RSPB said we are entering “unchartered territory,” highlighting that we are in the midst of a nature and climate crisis.
It is urging the public to contact their MPs to voice their concerns over the plan.
What is the government planning?
At present, the plans for 38 “investment zones” appear to be vague.
A fact sheet published on September 23 reads: “The need for planning applications will be minimized and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined… We will set out further detail on the liberalized planning offer for Investment Zones in due course.”
The RSPB has also stated that the government is “intent on amending or scrapping crucial environmental laws.” These include the Habitats Regulations, which protect some of the most vulnerable wildlife and green places in England.
The Environmental Land Management Scheme, under which farmers were paid to manage land in a way that was beneficial to the environment, also looks set to be scrapped.
It was conceived by former environment secretary Michael Gove and would have encouraged farmers to create safe spaces for birds and dormice, as well as promote practices that help us move toward net zero.
Speaking to the Observer, Labour MP and shadow farming minister Daniel Zeichner described the plans as a “complete step back from their promises.” He added: “To tear it up without any consultation would be nothing short of mindless vandalism.”
Jeff Knott, the RSPB’s director of policy and advocacy, said in a statement: “One of these three government actions alone would be a disaster – taken together, in such quick succession, with no debate or scrutiny, amounts to one of the most brazen attacks on nature we have ever seen.”
The government slammed by nature groups
The RSPB isn’t the only group hitting out at the government.
The National Trust, a charity that looks after large areas of land in the UK, said in a statement: “Rather than ramp up action to support our environment, this government appears, however, to be heading in the opposite direction.”
“The new Investment Zones represent a free-for-all for nature and heritage.”
In a tweet in support of the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts stated: “Make no mistake – we are also incredibly angry.”
“We stand with RSPB England in calling out the unprecedented attack on nature launched by the UK government over the last few days. We’ll be challenging this together and asking for our supporters to stand with us.”