George Monbiot writes in the Guardian today raising concern over the functions of Natural England. He cites the recent House of Lords NERC Act 2006 committee report that highlighted reductions to the budget of Natural England.
The government responded to the committee report in May.
In the response it was made clear that Defra plays no part in Natural England’s advice as a statutory consultee on planning issues, individual licensing decisions or decisions on enforcement action. The relationship between Defra and Natural England is clearly set out in Natural England’s Framework Document, so that there is no misunderstanding about the areas where it can and should act independently.
Natural England also chose to respond to the Guardian article with the following letter:
George Monbiot should be assured that Natural England retains its strong voice for nature, along with its statutory role and driving mission to protect and enhance the country’s wildlife, geology, habitats and landscapes. (As the state is dismantled, who will save our wildlife?)
Our independence from government is firmly set out in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 which gives Natural England the powers to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations.
Like all public bodies we have met the challenge of reduced budgets by reducing our reliance on public funding and instead increasingly working in partnership with organisations and individuals that share our commitment to the natural world – such as the Back from the Brink partnership that is helping save 20 species from the threat of extinction. Furthermore, in recent years we have made great progress in creating the world’s longest continuous coastal footpath and helped establish a “blue belt” of 50 Marine Conservation Zones around England, with more in the pipeline.
With the publication of the government’s 25 Year plan for the environment, Natural England has a key role to play in delivering this ambitious agenda to leave the environment in a better state.
Chief Executive, Natural England