Amendments to weaken environmental protections will make everyone worse off 

Bill Wiggin, Conservative MP for North Herefordshire, has tabled amendments NC2 and NC3 to the Environment Bill that will undermine environmental protections.

Amendment NC2 will undermine the environmental assessment process of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017/1012 by making it an optional element.

Environmental assessment is used to identify, estimate, and evaluate the environmental impacts of existing and proposed projects to mitigate the relevant negative effects prior to making decisions and commitments. It is an essential part of the planning and development process in ensuring that society can continue to progress and develop without undue impacts on the environment.

The government’s 25-Year Environment Plan asserts that we will “become the first generation to leave [the] environment in a better state than we found it and pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future”. Further to this, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to not reduce green protections after Brexit. It is unfortunate that this is not recognised by Mr Wiggin.

The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee has also voiced its concerns that there should be no regression of environmental standards after the UK leaves the European Union.

Given the lack of resources, funding and environmental expertise in Local Planning Authorities, making environmental assessment an optional process will mean that squeezed LPAs will consider omitting it. This will result in further losses to the environment, will act in opposition to the government’s own policies on the environment, and importantly, will mean a loss of the benefits to the economy and society from a healthy and functional natural environment.

Amendment NC3 seeks to remove any consideration by the competent authority regarding the impact of phosphates in planning decisions – both in the immediate and long-term.

This amendment completely ignores the evidence on nutrient pollution, and the progress that has been made in recognising the problem and the need to address it.

We are in a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, and one of the key elements for tackling this is through restoring nature.

Should these amendments be passed we will undoubtedly be regressing on environmental standards, and we will all be worse off for it. The Government’s much-heralded environmental ambitions will have fallen at the first hurdle. We urge all MPs to vote against these amendments.

Jason Reeves CEnv MCIEEM
Head of Policy and Communications