A Statement On Government Policy

Thursday 29th September, 2022 

The Wye and Usk Foundation joins the RSPB, National Trust, and The Rivers Trust in expressing its dismay and anger that the English government appears to be abandoning its promises for nature and climate. Unlike the Welsh Government, Westminster seems to be ignorant of the silent voices of nature and future generations. The need to pursue sustainable economic growth is dependent on restoring the health of our natural environment.

The proposals being discussed would severely undermine the much vaunted 25-year Environment Plan and the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto commitment to deliver it. Far from being beneficial to business and economic growth, they would severely damage the sustainability of the country’s economy and the well-being of future generations.

Environmental Land Management Scheme

The Rivers Trust has been providing significant input to the development of the new post-EU agricultural payments scheme, there is a significant opportunity to link up these payments with natural flood management, river restoration and pollution prevention initiatives. If the scheme doesn’t go ahead, it will be a major setback for the government’s manifesto commitment to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation. What’s more, it will cause havoc for farmers across the country who want to improve their land use practices, and have begun to do so ahead of its implementation.

Environmental Regulations

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill could see hundreds of environmental laws repealed which would have terrible consequences for wildlife in a country which is already one of the most nature-depleted on earth. These laws – even though they are all too often poorly enforced and implemented at present – are vital to protect biodiversity, water supply and water quality which are essential to businesses and the economy. Many of these regulations are designed to protect businesses and communities suffering from the actions of polluters and others. Weakening them would cause major additional costs for those affected and create great uncertainty.

Planning reform

The Planning and Infrastructure Bill proposals would weaken environmental planning rules in “Investment Zones” around the country. Planning controls already fail to protect the environment from development in all cases – as the proliferation of chicken farms in the upper River Wye has shown – and therefore any attempt to weaken them further across the country poses a severe threat to habitats and species that are already struggling.

But in Wales

For once we find ourselves happy with trying to restore a catchment that runs through two countries. The headwaters of the Wye and the whole of the Usk are in Wales, and we are encouraged by the vision of the Welsh Government that is embedded within their Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals. The SFS will see farmers rewarded for the restoration of biodiversity and creation of habitat,  which when combined with payments from downstream interests allows for us and partners to solve the problem of the ever-increasing flooding.

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