THE RELAUNCH OF THE ENVIRONMENT BILL – WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR LANDOWNERS?
by SARAH WOODS
The relaunching of the Government’s Environment Bill is greatly encouraging on a number of levels for the rural sector.
Firstly, it is coherent and well thought through. Secondly, delivered through Michael Gove’s Health and Harmony consultation leading to the 25 year Environment Plan, aspirations are relatively realistic and attainable. Thirdly, it is some of the first ‘joined up thinking’ for this area of policy we have witnessed in the last 40 years. In short, it sets the objectives that the Agriculture Bill will help deliver through Environmental Management Schemes (ELMS). Sarah Woods, Ecologist at Rural Solutions talks through the implications.
TIME FOR CHANGE
In the UK, our native biodiversity has been facing a crisis of sorts. From skylarks and honeybees, to meadows and moorland, we have seen the effects of an ecological decline. Now that the long-awaited Environment Bill is finally here, what does it actually mean for landowners across the UK?
To summarise some of the key points important to us and our clients:
- A new regulatory body is going to be established, called the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP). The OEP will be in charge of making sure environmental targets are met and enforced, advising ministers about issues concerning the environment and working alongside other agencies such as Natural England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
- Air quality is being more strictly regulated, so some proposed land use changes where land use is changing to anything potentially carbon or gas emitting, such as pig farms, other livestock, tree felling etc., may now require a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) to ensure that the air quality is not being affected.
- Water pollution is now being more strictly controlled; safer, clean water is essential to not only a healthier environment but a healthier population too. This means that activities near to waterbodies may need to be carefully considered, and again a HRA report may be needed to proceed with some applications.
- Local Nature recovery strategies are being introduced and every area of the UK will have a biodiversity enhancement plan drawn up which will affect local planning in each area.
- Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Biodiversity Net Gain is going to become part of the planning process and will need to be included by law. There is no set date for commencement of this law, but here at Rural Solutions, we are already working hard to incorporate this principle, for the good of our clients and our countryside.
Whilst it seems that maybe a multitude of things may be changing at once, the good news is that here at Rural Solutions we are well prepared. Through our new ecology team, we now have the capacity to fully carry out any assessments that may be required including habitat regulations and environmental impact assessments. Not only can we work above and beyond the set conditions that are now coming into place, but we can also offer an advanced and innovative net gain assessment within our Biodiversity Enhancements plan. In short, the environment and biodiversity is going to become a key planning issue and probably for the better. We are well placed to leverage this change of direction.