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Triennial Review: Natural England must be strong, independent and properly resourced

12 December 2012

The Government has today published its discussion paper on the future of Natural England, its natural environment adviser, and the Environment Agency [1].  The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomes Ministers’ openness to dialogue, but warns that, if they make the wrong choices, the protection of England’s landscapes and wildlife will be undermined.

 In its discussion paper, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) presents two broad options; no major restructuring, which would see Natural England and the Environment Agency continue broadly as now, or amalgamation into a single environment body.

 

Ben Stafford, Head of Campaigns at CPRE, says:

‘We do not believe that amalgamating the Environment Agency and Natural England would be the right decision.  They have important distinct functions, and there is a real danger that the voice of Natural England as an independent voice for the natural environment, and as a champion for our matchless landscapes, could be muffled within a larger single body.

‘Major reorganisation would also be disruptive and distracting at a time when these bodies need to focus on tackling the challenges facing the countryside, including flooding and ash dieback.

‘We welcome the open way in which the Government has involved a wide range of organisations while drawing up its proposals for the future of these bodies.  But we are now coming to the crunch, and the outcome of this review will determine how, as a country, we stand up for our best landscapes, wider countryside and the wildlife that depends on them.’

Ben Stafford continues:

‘It is wholly understandable that the Government wants to promote economic growth, but it needs to remember that it is not the primary purpose of either Natural England or the Environment Agency to do this [2].

‘There is no shortage of voices across government making the case for business and development, but clear, strong voices for nature in government are few and far between.  Natural England’s statutory purpose as an independent body focused on the natural environment must be safeguarded in this review.  And part of ensuring that this happens will be the maintenance of adequate funding – the pressing environmental challenges we face deserve proper government support.’

End

Notes to Editors
[1] Defra has invited submissions in response to its discussion paper by 4 February 2013.
[2] We are concerned that throughout the discussion paper there are references to the importance of reducing the burdens Natural England and the Environment Agency place on business and facilitating swift decision-making for developers.

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