Councillor Douglas JohnsonGreen Party Councillors have called on Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge Miriam Cates to disown the government’s ‘attack on nature.’ The Greens have described plans to downgrade environmental protections as a ‘three-pronged assault on nature.’

Last Friday’s ‘mini-budget’ included plans for ‘investment zones’ which would make it easier to get planning permission. 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 (ELMS) is to be scrapped. This would have paid farmers to improve nature on their land.

Cllr Douglas Johnson, Green group leader, said

“Our local conservative MP represents many rural voters, and people who enjoy our local countryside, who will be up in arms about the government proposals. They should not feel duty-bound to back the government over plans that 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 whilst also helping nature to recover. Our local Tory MP has a special responsibility to say NO to her new leaders, on behalf of our community.”

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.

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.[1] [2]
• Rip up environmental protections introduced by the EU, without plans for replacement.[3]
• Withdraw plans to help farmers to protect nature [4], 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 [5].

Councillor Johnson said

“Of course just before these announcements we also saw Mr Jacob 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 [6].
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.” [7] Hilary McGrady of the National Trust says, “environmental protections are dismissed as ‘burdens’, while investment and growth are pitted against nature and climate action.”

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. Locally we have large parts of the Peak District National Park within Sheffield City Council’s boundaries. This is used for recreation, farming for local food and as a habitat for local wildlife. These are all threatened by these Government proposals.

Yet we know people’s 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”[8]. In other words, the recovery of nature and the revival of local living standards should and can go hand-in hand.
We call on Conservatives to make plain to your party leaders that these policies must be reversed. We ask for a public statement from Miriam Cates MP on 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.”

[2] Map of investment zones:
[5] ““in return for funding, [farmers] must farm in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment”