Tuesday, 7 June 2011

British Parks&Playing Fields to be Protected.

Defra have announed that parks and playing fields are to be protected under plans to reconnect Britain's with nature and make the whole of the country more green! It is certainly a step in the right direction, particularly as Central Government were at one stage toying with the idea of selling a lot of our forests to the private sector! We have found that the best article written on this topic was by the Daily Telegraph's Louise Gray, enjoy!

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent - The Daily Telegraph

The Natural Environment White Paper aims to reverse decades of decline in Britain’s wildlife by putting concern for nature at the heart of planning, education and even economic policy.

The biggest overhaul in nature conservation for 20 years will encourage children to go pond dipping, force supermarkets to plant woodland and make the chancellor take wildlife into account when planning expenditure. Millions of pounds will be pumped into creating new 'Nature Improvement Areas' across deprived parts of the country and volunteers will be expected to help clean up green spaces as part of the 'Big Society'.

At the heart of the paper are innovative measures to be included in ongoing reforms to the planning system.

Under the plans a community referendum can nominate parks, playing fields or even a pretty view across the fields as Green Designation Areas (GDAs). As long as the whole community agrees and the new designation fits into local plans it will be given “suitably strong protection” in the same way that current rules stop development in national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, said local people should be given the power to protect the views they care about.

“Giving communities the power to protect green spaces in towns and cities important to their local environment will benefit the wellbeing of people and wildlife,” she said.

“The natural environment matters to us all – not just because it makes us feel good when we stumble across a bluebell wood or spot a pair of goldfinches, but because we are now all able to see the terrible price we would pay if we lost what we have or neglected to care for it.”

Environmental groups welcomed the intentions of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) but remain concerned that other departments will fail to implement the necessary measures to protect nature, especially as there are no targets or new laws set down in the paper.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, remained concerned about whether wider planning reforms will protect the natural environment or make it easier to develop land in some areas, putting the new plans on a collision course with planning authorities.

"The jury is still out on how the changes to the planning system may hinder these laudable ambitions," she said. "We need a ‘game-change’ in the way we value all the benefits that nature provides – so that whenever decisions are made, in whatever area of Government policy, the environment wins alongside other benefits."

Ruth Davis of Greenpeace pointed out most of the measures are voluntary or ask the private sector to do all the work.

"Ordinary people were disgusted by the plan to sell off the countries’ forests, and they will be equally mystified and horrified by proposals to ‘offset’ the destruction of one habitat or species, by the ‘voluntary’ creation of another," she said. "How many badgers or hedgehogs do you save, to offset one dead otter? It’s madness.”

Meanwhile the latest assessment by the CBI found that the Government is failing to meet targets on tackling climate change because of delays in investing in low carbon energy.

New measures in the Natural Environment White Paper to make Britain green include:

Green Designation Areas to protect parks and beauty spots from development.

More green space created in towns and cities.

Reform to health and safety laws so that it is easier for schools to take children on fields trips, teach outdoors and create ponds or gardens.

The 'pupil premium' that schools receive for enrolling poor students could be used to fund visits to forests and rivers.

Developers like supermarkets will be asked to ‘offset’ any damage to wildlife by creating new habitat elsewhere in new 'biodiversity offsetting' system.

£7.5 million funding to make 12 parts of the country Nature Improvement Areas where roads, car parks and derelict areas are managed and connected to help wildlife.

Peat, that damages wildlife, will be phased out for amateur gardeners by 2020 and for horticulture by 2030.

An annual statement on the UK’s ‘green accounts', to sit alongside GDP, will show how the country is doing on natural capital like clean air, pollination and fertile soil.

A business-led task force and a ‘Natural Capital Committee’ reporting to the Chancellor will ensure economic plans do not harm important ecosystems.

New environmental volunteering initiative Muck in 4 Life and funding for local authorities will help improve green spaces in both the countryside and cities.

Reform of the water abstraction system so that wildlife in rivers are protected from drought.

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