CHRIS DADY, chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Norfolk, welcomes the government’s latest environment plan with some caveats
Welcome for the new 25-year green plan
IT CAN only be good news when the government sets out positive policies to make us ‘the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than that in which we found it’. There is much to
welcome in A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the
Environment which sets out the government’s strategy for the protection of our environment.
The proposed actions on plastics, heralded by the wave of concern generated by the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 revelations on plastic waste in the world’s oceans, cannot come soon enough. An emphasis on enhancing the beautiful English landscape, which is such an important source of refreshment and inspiration for people, will chime with all of us in Norfolk.
Actions to enhance national parks, AONBs and the green belt, create a new Northern Forest, as well as to restore nature across the wider landscape, will also bring benefits to the countryside. This, combined with the actions to improve people’s access to green space and address climate change, should bring improvements in the health and wellbeing of all of us.
There is no doubt this is an ambitious plan. Its success will depend upon how soon those ambitions are converted into agreed actions, rather than being a rather wonderful wish list.
Some gaps needs to be filled too, especially for us in Norfolk. Many of us appreciate the tranquillity that can be found in our county. A commitment to helping to maintain our truly dark skies which now cannot be enjoyed in much of England is very important for us, and needs to be a key action.
When you travel on our roads and visit places, it is apparent that we need more than just words to deal with our throwaway culture. A deposit return system for cans and bottles of all descriptions needs a commitment that this vision does not give.
The built environment is where we need to do more as well. There is always much use of the word ‘sustainability’ in planning developments, but this is almost a throwaway word that has to be used rather than a concept behind any scheme.
If we simply go down the route of saying that any environmental damage caused by development can be offset, then we have to take great care to know which assets are quantifiable and replaceable, otherwise we will see our environment continue to deteriorate.
The first thing we should see is to get land already allocated for development built on, rather than going through the endless process of requiring more greenfield sites to be released for building. This process is happening at the moment in Norfolk, despite the fact we have enough land allocated for 20 years of housebuilding.
We should make all new houses A+ energy efficient. We need to see the coming planning framework review tackle all these issues and to become a mechanism to put the right houses in the right places.
Wedded to the post-Brexit farm subsidy system proposed by our Environment Secretary to support a new agricultural system that sees improvements to our landscapes, protection for our wild spaces, long term management of our soils amongst other public benefits, then this 25 year plan is to be welcomed. It will be judged on how quickly effective measures are introduced and we must hold our politicians to account to ensure this happens.
“The first thing we should see is to get land already allocated for development built on”