Letter: Environment Bill: Nature Recovery at risk

20th May 2021

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 20 May 2021.

Sir,

Environment Bill: Nature Recovery at risk

The Government’s Environment Bill will be subject to a second reading in Parliament on 26 May.

There are growing concerns about the weakness of the Bill, particularly in relation to development and the planning process.

The outcome of this reading will be of huge consequence for the ‘Wilder Horsham Project’ – and for the natural environment and communities across Sussex.

The Bill, among other things, provides a statutory mechanism for creating a Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LRNS), most likely at county scale, which will include maps outlining areas, including areas in Horsham District identified through the Wilder Horsham project, that collectively constitute local nature recovery networks.

If areas identified within LRNS are to be protected from development suitable policies will be needed within local plans.

But, with the Bill’s current wording, a local planning authority will only have ‘a duty to have regard’ to the LNRNS and areas of nature value within, and it could therefore ignore the Strategy, or parts of it, and not provide protecting policies.

Crucially, therefore, the Bill as is will not assure the much-needed protection of LRNS and constituent areas of nature value, hence the threat to the Knepp Castle rewilding project and the area’s exceptionally high nature value.

This is a major weakness that will undermine not only the Wilder Horsham project but also nature recovery across Sussex, and it needs to be addressed by amending the Bill.

For a detailed explanation of the bill’s shortcomings, and the amendments, including Amendment 29 – Local Nature Recovery Strategies, that need to be made to the bill, google:  Environment Bill: GUK & Link briefing on Report stage amendments 21/01/21

And please lobby your MP.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Roger F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex