The return of the Environment Bill to Parliament this week (and following on from Environment Secretary George Eustice’s announcement last week, which included new tree and peat action plans) has brought two new amendments relating to the Habitats Regulations.
The new clauses, 21 and 22, give powers of the Secretary of State to amend the Habitats Regulations, and to amend part 6 of the Habitats Regulations. The Government has said it will publish a Green Paper on these reforms later this year. The Green Paper will set out how the government plans to deliver its domestic ambitions, as part of the objective of protecting 30% of terrestrial land by 2030.
The new clauses would in effect break the link between English legislation and the EU Habitats Directive.
A small working group – composed of Lord Richard Benyon, Rebecca Pow, Tony Juniper and Chris Kitkowski QC – has been convened to look into how the Habitats Regulations could be amended. Chris Kitkowski is also working with the Government on its planning reforms.
The new amendments that are likely to be voted through also include a new legally-binding target on species abundance for 2030, and one to add the hedgehog to protected species listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Environment Bill now moves to the House of Lords in its passage through Parliament.