Green councillors call on local Tories to join them in disowning government 'attack on nature'

By James Smith

5th Oct 2022 | Opinion

Green Party leaders have penned an open letter to local Conservative leaders
Green Party leaders have penned an open letter to local Conservative leaders

Green Party group leaders on local councils have written to Conservative council leaders and Sir Jeremy Wright MP, calling on them to disown the government's "attack on nature".

In an open letter, the Greens have described plans to "downgrade" environmental protections as a "three-pronged assault on nature".

The mini-budget published on 23 September included plans for investment zones with relaxed planning laws.

The government has also published plans for a sunset clause on environmental protections introduced when the UK was in the EU.

In addition, reports have suggested that the planned Environmental Land Management Scheme is to be scrapped.

This would have paid farmers to improve nature on their land. Instead, it is rumoured that payment-by acre will no longer be linked to any environmental measures.

Cllr James Kennedy leader of the Green group on Kenilworth Town Council, says local Conservative councillors represent many rural voters who will be "up in arms" about the government proposals.

He says they should not feel duty-bound to back the government because these plans are "almost the direct opposite of manifesto promises and have never been put to the British people".

"We need all our local politicians, whichever party they come from, to stand up for nature, and to make plain that we can have robust local economies while also helping nature to recover," he said.

"Local Tories have a special responsibility to say no to their new leaders, on behalf of our community."

The full letter reads:

Dear Cllr Andrew Day, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, and Sir Jeremy Wright MP,

This Government has launched an attack on nature ~ RSPB England

There is widespread anger in response to government plans to remove fundamental legal protections for our environment. Opposition has come from many organisations ranging from the RSPB and National Trust through to the Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth.

Alongside the reckless approach to the nation's finances, the government seems intent on tearing up protection for nature. In a three-pronged assault on nature Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng plan to;

  • Scrap planning rules that protect nature in new investment zones covering huge areas of the country.
  • Rip up environmental protections introduced by the EU, without plans for replacement.
  • Withdraw plans to help farmers to protect nature, with reports suggesting the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) has been put on hold whilst a return to a Common Agricultural Policy type per acre payment is expected, which will break a specific manifesto pledge.

Of course, just before these announcements, we also saw Mr Rees-Mogg open the door to environmentally damaging fracking, a policy that is widely opposed, will do nothing to reduce energy bills and which the founder of Cuadrilla himself says is unviable.

The responses from those who care for nature have been overwhelming. Joan Edwards, director of policy for The Wildlife Trusts, says these policies will mean polluters can get away with poisoning our rivers and countryside – even more than they are doing already.

These proposals come as part of a dash for growth package which is also spooking markets and ruining government finances. There is no mandate for these measures: they actually reverse the direction of travel on the environment in your 2019 manifesto and have never been put to the British people.

Yet we know peoples' livelihoods and local economies can be put on a sound footing with a three-pronged approach to investment: in nature recovery, in renewable energy and in home insulation to reduce energy bills.

Research has shown that protection and use of environmental assets is key to evening out economic imbalances between metropolitan and rural areas.

In other words, the recovery of nature and the revival of local living standards should and can go hand-in hand.

We call on you to make plain to your party leaders that these policies must be reversed. We ask for a public statement from your group leader on your groups views about these policies.

There is no case for staying silent, and every reason to stand up for your communities and for your local environment by making it plain that you will not support the tearing up of environmental protection and the reversal of attempts to help nature thrive.

Yours,

Cllr Will Bryce, Royal Leamington Spa Town Council

Cllr Jonathan Chilvers, Warwickshire County Council

Cllr Ian Davison, Warwick District Council

Cllr James Kennedy, Kenilworth Town Council

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