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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Government reiterates commitment to environmental protections

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There has been significant media attention this weekend, including in the Financial Times, Times, and the Telegraph, focused on comments from environmental groups such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, Green Alliance and Wildlife and Countryside Link. These organisations have expressed concerns that announcements in the Government’s growth plan to reform bureaucratic processes in the planning system, create investment zones and unlock economic growth may impact on existing protections for the environment.

We have always been clear that we do not intend to go back on our commitment to the environment. There has also been speculation that Defra may change or delay proposed Environmental Land Management schemes with coverage in the Observer and BBC Online.

A Government spokesperson said:

Claims we intend to go back on our commitment to the environment are simply not right.

A strong environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. We have legislated through the Environment Act and will continue to improve our regulations and wildlife laws in line with our ambitious vision.

We want every corner of our country to prosper too. Bureaucratic processes in the planning system do not necessarily protect the environment so, by making sure we have the right regulations for our nation, we can make this happen.


As set out in the Growth Plan, we will be looking at the frameworks for regulation, innovation and investment that impact farmers and land managers, to make sure that our policies are best placed to both boost food production and protect the environment. This includes looking at how best to deliver the Environmental Land Management schemes to see where and how improvements can be made, and we will continue to work closely with the sector to ensure these are designed and delivered in their best interests.

We’re not scrapping the schemes. In light of the pressures farmers are facing as a result of the current global economic situation, including spikes in input costs, it’s only right that we look at how best to deliver the schemes to see where and how improvements can be made.

Boosting food production and strengthening resilience and sustainability come alongside, not instead of, protecting and enhancing our natural environment, and later this year we will set out more details of plans on how we will increase food security while strengthening the resilience and role of farmers as stewards of the British countryside.

Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena said:

We are not scrapping our reforms. The environment, farming and economic growth go hand-in-hand and we are committed to our schemes that will support our farmers to produce high-quality food and enhance our natural environment.

We are committed to halting the decline of nature by 2030 and will not undermine our obligations to the environment in pursuit of growth.


This Government has a world-leading agenda for nature recovery backed up by plans for a legally binding target to halt nature’s decline by 2030. Our 25-Year Environment Plan sets out our ambition for a growing and resilient network of land, water and sea that is richer in plants and wildlife. We will restore 75% of our one million hectares of protected sites to favourable condition, securing their wildlife value for the long term.

Internationally we have also committed to protect 30% of the UK’s land and ocean by 2030 through the Leaders Pledge for Nature, committing to put nature and biodiversity globally on a road to recovery by 2030.

In order to support this ambitious work, we published a Nature Recovery Green Paper earlier this year setting out proposals to reform our system of protections, including the Habitats Regulations. The Nature Recovery Green Paper consultation closed in May and we are now in the process of analysing responses with our response to be published in due course.

Investment Zones will benefit from a liberalised planning process, so we can cut back unnecessary bureaucratic requirements, processes and red tape that slow down development or make it more complex than it should be. This includes removing burdensome EU requirements which create paperwork and stall development but do not necessarily protect the environment; focusing developer contributions on essential infrastructure requirements; and reducing lengthy consultation with statutory bodies.

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  1. Comment by kenneth Lumley posted on

    Beavers do not conserve water like snow on mountains, they just impede its passage for a few minutes before it flows downstream at exactly the same rate as it would have done had there been no beavers . The only difference might be tons of trees ,branches,leaves ,debris that once formed the dam being washed out in a flood ,causing havoc down the valley. (Pythagurus theory involving displacement of water )

  2. Comment by Jes Hooper posted on

    How can this be believed when Defra have not released the badger cull figures for this year's intensive cull licenses? Too many secrets, not nearly enough transparency despite nature being in the public interest.

  3. Comment by J. R. Platt posted on

    Much of the regulations that apply to the farming industry are far too intrusive and frankly insult the intelligence of the farming community.The aim should be to concentrate on bad practice where it exists and allow responsible farmers to get on with dealing with the real problems.

    • Replies to J. R. Platt>

      Comment by Jenny Paton-Williams posted on

      And what about the less responsible farmers? Do you just want them to run riot over the environment? The EU regulations and our Planning laws are there for a purpose.

  4. Comment by Keith Obbard posted on

    ........"This includes looking at how best to deliver the Environmental Land Management schemes to see where and how improvements can be made, ......."
    I don't believe a word this Government says, and I can reasonably surmise that "improvements can be made" is Government speak (AKA Double-Speak) for how we can take money going to people who desperately need it to be given to the mega-rich.

    Prove me wrong!!!

    • Replies to Keith Obbard>

      Comment by Nigel Madeley posted on

      I agree.
      No-one who has watched the events of the last few days (and years) can trust this Conservative government.
      1) It illegally prorogued Parliament.
      2) It is a constitutional principle that a party follows its manifesto after being elected. Ditching a prime minister is not a reason for reneging on manifesto commitments.
      As people such as Jake Fiennes and James Rebanks have shown, you don't need increased (or even current) 'inputs' to produce more good food. You do need to grow the right stuff in the right way in the right place. That is what environmental incentives need to encourage.
      Without nature there is no agriculture. That is as blunt a fact as borrowing to fund tax cuts for the already rich is the economic madhouse (or, presumably, Minford's house - the latest defunct economist).

  5. Comment by Denise Seely posted on

    This all sounds commendable but as a small farmer running a CS High Tier Scheme and 2 years into an application for a EWCO woodland scheme I look forward to the implementation of 'how best to deliver' and 'improve'.
    Perhaps implement 'phone the farmer' to speed up the process?
    Perhaps do not insist that land is taken out of one scheme and thus grants lost before acceptance into another is agreed?
    One step at a time - good luck!

  6. Comment by Lord Head posted on

    The £2.5bn Single Farm Payment should be reinstated and left in situ until a replacement scheme, which would need to fund both productivity and enhancement of the environment, has been fully drafted worked-up, priced and published. The annual withdrawal (salami slicing) of the SFP and the lack of clarity of what is to replace it causes real uncertainty for farmers confronted with exceptionally high costs.
    Support for agricultural production and restoration of biodiversity (the latter through improved payments for stewardship schemes and organic farming) may require a larger budget than at present exists.

  7. Comment by Malcolm Newson posted on

    Not convinced until Dieter Helm approves!

  8. Comment by Gwen Evans posted on

    You write "We have always been clear..."
    Clearly, that is not the case.
    And it is the reason for the level of concern from key organisations and the public,
    Perhaps further public statements clarifying the chancellors statement, which was to lift restrictions, would be in order? It may go some way to help clarify some of the contradictory statements recently made by DEFRA / Government on this matter?

  9. Comment by Terry Robinson posted on

    The government has stated that it plans to speed up it road building program, we don’t need any more roads destroying green land and causing habitat fragmentation. We need less cars on roads and better public transport.

  10. Comment by Mike Macartney-Filgate posted on

    Good to have clarification... but we will see what and how it happens!

  11. Comment by William Hughes-Games posted on

    As mentioned in the article, the correct regulations are vital for success in protecting the environment an enabling the commerce needed for human prosperity. One vital factor is a constant supply of water, especially in the summer when most of the growth of agricultural crops occurs. Unfortunately on effect of climate change seems to be extremes. Instead of an orderly succession of rainy days and sunny days, we have long periods of drought followed by very heavy, damaging rain. If you had great high mountains, this wouldn't be such a problem. They would accumulate snow and release it during the dry periods but you don't. Fortunately there is a 'get out of jail' card - a furry little fellow that does just what high, snow covered mountains do. It is the beaver. You already, fortunately, have enough data in the UK to know without a doubt what the effects of beavers are in the catchments of rivers so get on with it and enact the regulations that enable them to be spread everywhere.

  12. Comment by Richard Ogdenr posted on

    Let's see some action, we have had plenty of statements all very good and meaningful.
    Next time there is a sewage pollution let's have the person at the top of the tree brought before a committee, cross examined and dealt with in the appropriate manner.
    Give the Environment Minister the clout to make him or her feared.
    Remember the ENVIRONMENT should be at the top of the tree on all considerations.

  13. Comment by John W. Baxter posted on

    We need some honesty from our governors, and by that I mean not the usual rhetoric that we , the public , are being protected from water companies continuing to pollute our watercourses unabated, failing to treat waste adequately, to our specifications or those of the EU, and as some of the largest landowners in the country,setting a dismal example of what water companies have managed to accomplish since being privatised.
    It is time the public was treated to some good honest outputs that are beneficial to the public and not more of the chest beating that we have come to expect from those who have spent their careers shuffling from government departments to private companies and back again leaving us, the public, filled with disappointment as we witness more and more failures of people we are meant to work with in improving our surroundings.
    Farmers in the U.K. are committing to improving their surroundings, with or without bureaucrats on board, all they are looking for is support , not the kind of rhetoric, aka blather, they are being fed from government that needs to earn some trust......very soon!.