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Government mugging of England’s wildlife protection

Plantlife dismayed by government announcement

November 30 2011

Early gentian © John Shackles

Early gentian © John Shackles

Not content with proposing to sell off vast swathes of the Public Forest Estate and introducing a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ in their planning bill, the ‘greenest government ever’ has bowed again to pressure from developers and announced that, owing to the ‘ridiculous cost on British business’, Defra will be reviewing the English implementation of the Habitats Regulations which protect our most threatened wildlife.

Victoria Chester, Plantlife’s CEO, greeted the announcement with: ‘Any pretence that this Coalition Government is ‘the greenest government ever’ is absurd. The image of Cameron and huskies was potent PR but the scales have dropped leaving the grotesque reality that this Government is intent on riding roughshod over the landscapes and wildlife that we hold most dear.

George Osborne’s petulant attack in his Autumn Statement destroys the principle that there are environmental limits by which we live in order to safeguard the wildlife with which we share this island. UK law already provides mechanisms whereby SSSIs can be damaged or destroyed – are we now going to let this Government tear up the most significant element of wildlife protection across the European Union?’

"The New Forest or Dartmoor woods and heaths... are on a par with the Black Forest in Germany, or the Tilos islands in Greece. To open up their destruction in the name of bolstering the British economy is ludicrous."

Elizabeth Radford, Plantlife’s International Programme Manager


Elizabeth Radford, Plantlife’s International Programme Manager adds: “The European Habitats Directive gives protection to those places which are of international significance for nature. Familiarity leads us to forget that these landscapes - the New Forest or Dartmoor woods and heaths for example - are on a par with the Black Forest in Germany, or the Tilos islands in Greece. To open up their destruction in the name of bolstering the British economy is ludicrous.’

102 (68%) of the 150 Important Plant Areas (IPAs) identified by Plantlife in the UK are protected under this legislation as part of the Natura 2000 Network. So, Burnham Beeches IPA in Buckinghamshire, Dorset Heaths IPA or Moor House to Upper Teesdale IPA are all Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) because of the internationally important plants found on them.

Brought in by a Conservative Government in 1994, the Habitats Regulations implement the European Habitats Directive in the UK. The regulations ensure that internationally important places for wildlife cannot be destroyed by development.

There are 9 wild plants protected under the Habitats Directive in the UK:

The Habitats Directive requires the establishment of a European network – the Natura 2000 Network - of protected sites (SACs) for the conservation of important habitats and rare species. In the UK, places can be designated Natura 2000 Sites if they are home to the nine species listed above, plus four other plants – two liverworts and two mosses: