Sussex Wildlife Trust boss hits out over plans for nature

Dr Tony Whitbread
Dr Tony Whitbread

THE BOSS of a wildlife charity has slammed government plans to review protection on nature sites.

Dr Tony Whitbread, chief executive at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, has said economic growth should not be achieved at the cost of natural life support systems, after chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement set out plans to look at how special areas of conservation (SAC) and special protection areas (SPA) operate within the planning process.

Dr Whitbread said: “The government’s own National Ecosystem Assessment and Natural Environment White Paper, both published in June, promised much more than this.

“They were to herald a change in nature’s fortunes.”

He added the directives were a key part of the foundation upon which nature recovery across England depended on.

“It seems the chancellor is not content with the massive shake up of the planning system that is already under way and which initially failed to even recognise local wildlife sites.

“Now sites and species of European importance face an uncertain future in England. When will the government recognise that our natural resources are finite?

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said the directives relating to the areas were there to protect the rarest and most threatening habitats and species.

“We want them to continue to be effective in protecting these very important wildlife sites and species.

“The vast majority of development cases do successfully meet the directives’ requirements but a small number raise particularly complex issues which give rise to unnecessary costs and delays.

“There’s also the possibility that the directives are being used in ways for which they were not intended.”

Dr Whitbread went on to say that at a time of recession, governments should be looking to the long term.

“For example, the coalition Government during the Second World War placed nature at the centre of post war reconstruction and some of our greatest nature conservation initiatives stem from that period,” he said.

“Even during one of the worst economic climates of the twentieth century the government was able to build a positive future for the natural world.”