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GREENS FIGHT FOR FUTURE OF FOREST FARMING AND NATURE


Forest of Dean Green councillors call on local Tories to join them in disowning the government's attack on nature.


Forest of Dean Green Party councillors have written to all local Conservative councillors, 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’.


Kwasi Kwarteng’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 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.


"I fear for the future of our stronghold for nature in the Forest of Dean”, said Green Councillor Chris McFarling. “I always thought the conservatives valued our natural inheritance, but I was wrong. This attack on nature is immoral and harmful to everything we hold dear. Conservative councillors should not feel duty-bound to back the government, as these plans are almost the direct opposite of manifesto promises and have never been put to the British people. Local Tories have a special responsibility to say NO to their new leaders, on behalf of our community”.


“Yet again the Conservatives are saying anything that is good for nature must be bad for people. But it doesn’t have to be that way - we can benefit both” said Green Councillor Jackie Fraser. “The scrapping of environmental protections would have a huge impact in the Forest of Dean and making Gloucestershire an Investment Zone would be a developers’ charter. It would remove even the inadequate controls that are now in place. Government has spent over two years working on the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and many farmers are already geared up for it. It is actually a very good scheme that would see nature return to our countryside, whereas currently most agricultural land is a wildlife desert because it is so intensively farmed. ELMS would also benefit farmers and food production. We can have robust local economies whilst also helping nature to recover.”


The full letter reads:

Dear Conservative Councillors,


“This Government has today 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. [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].


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.


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 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 group’s 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.



[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-growth-plan-2022-factsheet-on-investment-zones/the-growth-plan-2022-investment-zones-factsheet

[2] Map of investment zones: https://twitter.com/RSPBEngland/status/1573366828222808064

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/23/uk-environment-laws-under-threat-in-deregulatory-free-for-all

[4] https://www.edie.net/reports-defra-set-to-scrap-plans-to-pay-farmers-for-nature-restoration-and-creation/

[5] ““in return for funding, [farmers] must farm in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment” https://www.conservatives.com/our-plan/conservative-party-manifesto-2019

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