Archive for Coalition Government
Proposed planning law revisions drawn up by the office of the planning minister Greg Clarke promise to make it much easier to build new houses or office blocks. However, the revisions, which would see the number of pages in the planning policy slashed from 1,000 to 52, have been criticised by environmental groups worried that they threaten the nation’s green belts and wildlife habitats. Shaun Spiers, the Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), has claimed the new policy change, which won’t be approved until next year, is the biggest change in the system since the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, except the emphasis will be this time on economic growth rather than protection of the countryside. Although the new policy outline promotes ‘sustainable development’, Mr Spiers says that the definition of such a term is too vague to protect green spaces. The scrapping of government targets for the development of brown-field sites is also likely to put pressure on the green-belt. Greg Clarke MP has attacked the “bloated” national planning policy saying it has more words in it “than the complete works of Shakespeare”. He continued, “we need a simpler, swifter system that is easier to understand.” The WWF also urged caution on the plans with their Senior Planning Advisor, Emmalene Gottwald, saying: “This approach merely reinforces the boom and bust cycle by encouraging lots of development now to meet immediate demand, with the environmental fallout and social consequences to be dealt with at some unknown time in the future.”
www.guardian.co.uk 7th May 2011
When the UK Prime Minister David Cameron took power he promised the coalition would be the “greenest government ever.” However, after a year in power, his comments are looking increasingly hollow following a series of law repeals and intended sell-offs. Now a new report adds more pressure on Mr Cameron with claims that many environmental pledges have been watered down, delayed or even abandoned. The report was commissioned by the Friends of the Earth and it describes how 75% of the 77 environmental or sustainability policies open to discussion since the coalition took power have made no progress at all. Jonathon Porritt, a former government advisor who helped develop the report, commented that the “bad and the positively ugly indisputably outweighed the good” in the issue of green issues under the present government. Environmental concerns were put aside for ‘growth at all costs’ with the Prime Minister not being at all visible in championing such issues and the Treasury being positively hostile to environmental policies. Mr Porritt had been chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, which was meant to hold the government accountable on its sustainability policies, but was scrapped by the government in the so-called ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’ last year.
www.independent.co.uk 7th May 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Thousands of people have backed The Independent’s call for a ban on wild animals performing in circuses. As we revealed yesterday, Downing Street is understood to have blocked advanced plans by the Department for Environment for a ban. Almost 3,000 readers signed our online petition, while hundreds more left messages of support on the social networking site Twitter and our website. Among the comments on Twitter was “animals belong in the wild, not in the circus”. Around 20 animals perform in British circuses, including five tigers. All three circuses which use them – the Great British Circus, Peter Jolly’s and Circus Mondao – say the animals are well cared for by their trainers. Animal welfare groups and vets say enclosures are smaller than those in zoos, constant travel and performances in front of loud crowds make wild animals unsuitable for the big top. Their suspicions the Government would not agree a ban intensified last month when it failed to announce one during the row about pictures showing Anne the elephant being beaten at Bobby Roberts Super Circus. Virginia McKenna, who played the conservationist Joy Adamson in the film Born Free, said: “If the Government hasn’t thought it through, the public has – more than nine out of ten of us say a resounding no to the continued exploitation of wild animals in circuses in the name of so-called ‘entertainment’.”
To sign The Independent’s petition, visit independent.co.uk/circusanimals.
www.independent.co.uk 18th February 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Caroline Spelman issued an extraordinary apology yesterday as she scrapped plans to sell off England’s forests, telling MPs: “I’m sorry, we got this one wrong.” The Environment Secretary’s act of public contrition helped to calm the political storm the Government provoked with its controversial scheme to offload 637,000 acres of woodlands from public ownership. Tory MPs, who had joined a national protest campaign that united countryside groups and all shades of political opinion, rallied around the embattled minister as she confirmed the policy U-turn. Just 24 hours after David Cameron condemned the sell-off plans, she said she was halting the public consultation into the scheme, which had been due to run for another nine weeks, and was setting up an expert panel to look into forestry policy. She told the Commons: “I am doing so because it is clear from the early responses to the consultation that the public and many MPs are not happy with the proposals we set out.” Ms Spelman, who said she took full responsibility for the bungled scheme, received Mr Cameron’s backing yesterday as Downing Street said he had full confidence in her and that she had not offered to resign. She was supported on the Government front bench by several senior ministers, including the Chancellor, George Osborne. Ms Spelman said the retreat, and her Commons appearance to announce it, was “not a question of humiliation – it is my choice”. She added: “Humility is a good quality in a politician.”
www.independent.co.uk 28th January 2011
The Coalition government of the UK has announced that the vast majority of the country’s state-owned woodland, around 637,000 acres, is to be sold off to the private sector to raise funds for the cash-strapped economy. Despite a recent poll showing 84% of the public disagree with the decision, Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, claimed that the mass sell-off would raise £250 million over the ten years the sale would take place. The government seemed to cede to public pressure however with a series of rigorous safeguards that would protect public access to woodland and protect wildlife within it. Also, more ‘commercially valuable’ woodland would not be sold freehold but for leases of 150 years. Timber companies will have strict rules concerning their purchasing power and woodland will also be available to local authorities, communities and civil society. A further olive branch was extended towards those who are concerned with so-called ‘heritage forests’ such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean. These will not be sold off but given to a charity to manage. The most likely candidate is The Woodland Trust but the board of the charity have insisted that they will not take on these duties unless they receive government funding to do so.
www.telegraph.co.uk 11th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The cause of the major political story of last week – the row over tuition fees, students rioting and all – was, as we all know, “public spending cuts”. But how much money does the Government actually hope to save on tuition fees? If the immediate problem is our massive state deficit, it seems odd that the Government should risk such unpopularity, not for any immediate saving, but in the hope that it will get the money back over the next 30 years, as students can afford to repay it. In the short term, the Government’s own projection as to how much it will save is that the funding of university tuition will be cut by £2.9 billion by 2014. As it happens, £2.9 billion is the sum ring-fenced, by the same public spending review, to be given to developing countries to help them fight global warming with windmills and solar panels. It is also slightly less than the £3 billion by which our public debt is rising every week. These much-vaunted “cuts” are not all we are led to believe.’
www.telegraph.co.uk 19th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said aid money will be used in a new way to tackle climate change, as well as funding health and education. In a controversial move, the Coalition Government will be using tax-payer’s money to encourage private investors to put further funds towards ‘green’ development projects. However aid agencies and charities argue it is dangerous to involve big business in aid because they will only help people while there is the potential for profit. Mr Mitchell announced two public-private partnership projects in Africa and Asia to stimulate investment in renewable energy schemes. The UK Government has already put aside £2.9 billion of the aid budget to tackle climate change over the next four years. From this grants will be put in a central pot and then matched by private investors, renewable energy projects can then dip into the fund to develop hydro-electric plants and other schemes. Once the money is flowing private investors will see that there is profit to be made from investing in solar panels and other technologies for poor people. A ‘green market’ will be created for the first time in some of the most ‘energy poor’ areas of the world. Initial modelling of the fund estimates £9 of private investment could be raised for every £1 put in by the UK Government. DfID estimates that, over 25 years, the project could generate energy for millions of rural homes, create 60,000 jobs and save 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The project is all part of international efforts to fight climate change by making sure that developing countries, which will produce the most carbon in the future, grow in a green way.’
www.independent.co.uk 14th November 2010
Under plans drawn up by Richard Benyon, the Water Minister, people in the UK living near the sea or rivers will be hit by a controversial flood tax so that the government can fill a £260 million hole in flood defence spending. In return for the tax, which would be on top of higher insurance premiums already imposed on people susceptible to flooding, local communities would have more of a say in where the defences are erected. A consultation for the plan will go ahead this week despite coinciding with the anniversary of the Cumbria floods last year which displaced hundreds of people. The recent budget cuts undertaken by the coalition government saw the Department of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which oversees flood defence, have its funding cut by 27%, the second largest reduction after the treasury. This involved the total budget for coastal erosion and flooding dropping by £260 million to £2.1 billion.
www.telegraph.co.uk 14th November 2010
The government’s proposal to build a high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London, called HS2, has caused widespread complaints from the people living in the path of the development. The trains would thunder through the countryside at up to 250mph. The idea was dreamt up by the Labour government but has been supported by the Lib-Con Coalition. However, the proposed route runs straight through the Tory heartland receiving widespread condemnation from MPs, residents, and over 60 action groups. Even the speaker of the House, John Bercow, has voiced his disapproval. If the project is given the go ahead, construction would not start until 2015 with the first leg completed around 2025. Further routes to Manchester and Leeds would follow at a cost of around £30 billion. Supporters of HS2 have claimed that the line will create thousands of construction jobs and economic benefits for the communities affected but, due to the high speeds involved, it is highly unlikely the trains will stop many times along their route. Furthermore, as the track needs to be as straight as possible, more intrusive development methods will be used including high viaducts, deep cuttings, and long tunnels. The proposed plans have already had an effect on the housing market in the region.
12th November 2010
On the 24th October, the Guardian newspaper reported that, in order to yet further reduce the nation’s deficit, the coalition government is to sell off half of Britain’s forests. If such a move went ahead then it would be the greatest change of land ownership since the second world war. In response to the article, Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has written a retort in the same paper explaining the details of the government’s decision. In it she explains that rather than a mass sell-off of a valuable national asset, the government is seeking to decentralise environmental management in a new and innovative way. Read her explanation here.
www.independent.co.uk 13th November 2010
In a series of secretive moves the coalition government has scrapped or delayed a host of animal rights laws that were introduced by the Labour government. The affected laws, some only weeks away from being passed, include a ban on mutilating chickens’ beaks so that they could not peck each other in enclosed environments such as battery farms. The RSPCA described the practice as “an insult to hens’ welfare.” Another law would have banned game birds from being kept in cages. An additional move has seen the Department of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) drop a series of charges against abattoir operators for animal cruelty. Footage, caught by the environmentalist group Animal Aid, showed abattoir workers kicking cattle, pigs and sheep but DEFRA said that such evidence would not hold up in court as it was obtained by trespassing. Tim Smith, head of the Food Standards Agency, which enforces slaughterhouse standards, described the images as: “the cruelty on show is the worst I have seen.” DEFRA has also postponed a ban on using wild animals in circuses. There are currently some 40 tigers, elephants, zebras, and other animals forced to do tricks for circuses in the UK. The ban was first put forward by Labour minister Jim Fitzpatrick after a poll showed 95% of the public supported the idea. All these moves were instigated by the Agricultural minister James Paice, who owns a farm in Cambridgeshire. He is also behind the government’s overturning of Labour’s opposition to a badger cull.
To watch Animal Aid’s film please click here. Some viewers may find the footage upsetting.
The coalition government in the UK has come under fire for its apparent failure to live up to its grandiose claims of being the ‘greenest government ever’. With the latest budget cuts affecting DEFRA more than any other government department apart from the treasury it seems that the Con-Lib coalition is, in fact, doing the opposite. In order to make up the shortfall of funds, DEFRA may be forced to sell off as much as half of the nation’s forests. The government has also dropped its promise to reduce illegal timber imports, has refused to stop drilling in the North Sea following the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, plans to reduce the number of environmental quangos from 92 to 39, and has cut funding on the ‘Warm Front Scheme’ that provides grants for insulation for the less well-off. However, steps are being taken to radically overhaul the UK’s energy use. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Energy and Climate Minister Greg Parker is asked about the details of the plan and how it essential for the nation’s future. Read the full interview here at e360.yale.edu.
www.guardian.co.uk 24th October 2010
In further attempts to cut the nation’s deficit, the government is due to announce the sale of more than 150,000 hectares of forest owned by the state to private organisations or individuals over the next three years. The move will be the UK’s greatest change of land ownership since the second world war. Environmentalists and opposition parties have warned of an environmental disaster though unless stringent protective measures are put in place. The sale of the land would raise around £250million for the government at present day prices but many people are concerned that it will be bought up by industrial companies with little concern for the environment. “This would enable industrial landowners to…aggressively control the market”, said Mike Seville, forestry and woodland advisor for the Country Landowners’ Association. Attempts to privatise the Forestry Commission occurred under both Thatcher and Major in the 1980s and 90s but failed due to intense pressure from conservationist groups and lack of industry interest. With higher land values today though, this may change.
‘A government economic study released earlier this year calculated that (woodland) provides £2,100 in value per hectare per year in benefits such as erosion protection, pollution absorption, carbon sequestration, health provision are included.’
www.guardian.co.uk 20th September 2010
The Coalition government of the UK has gone back on its promises to make it a criminal offense to possess or import illegally felled timber. The Foreign Secretary William Hague promised to pass the legislation after a similar bill was brought into action in the USA in November last year. He even went as far s to criticise the Environment Secretary at the time, Labour’s Hilary Benn, for not promising the same. However, Jim Paice, Minister for Agriculture and Food, has told Green Party MP Caroline Lucas that no such action is forthcoming and the UK would stay in line with EU directives on the matter and no more. He called any further action by the UK “duplicative” and added that “in these difficult financial times, we need to focus on the principles of better regulation”. Campaigners believe that that such legislation is necessary to curb the 350-650 million square metres of forest felled annually for the illegal timber trade.
This is the second coalition turnaround on Green issues. Promises were also made to extend energy subsides for people who erected solar panels. Instead, the Climate and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne stated the plan would not go ahead and those that had erected green energy alternatives should be content with the “warm glow of being pioneers”.
www.bbc.co.uk 15th September 2010
The protected European badger (Meles meles) may be subject to a cull in England as the government prepares to tackle Tuberculosis in cattle, which costs the economy £100 million per annum. The previous Labour government did not believe that a cull was the way forward but the Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition is set to allow Natural England, the statuary agency that handles hunting and gun licenses, to issue permission to farmers for badger culling. However the science behind the decision is hotly disputed. The scientists behind the UK’s biggest culling investigation, the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), maintain that culling is not the answer as it causes badgers to travel further beyond the culling zone therefore coming into contact with more cattle. Only two months ago the Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by the Badger Trust against the Welsh Assembly’s decision to implement a cull. The main argument in the Court’s decision was that a cull would result in only a 9% reduction in Bovine TB in local cattle populations which was not believed to be enough to justify a cull on a protected species.
The government’s consultation is to last for 3 months.
Sources: www.independent.co.uk 12th September 2010
The Coalition Government has announced a change in how Britain is to deal with climate change steering away from preventative measures towards preparing for the inevitable changes in climate. The Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment Caroline Spelman has outlined, through a series of dramatic visual aides, how the UK must adapt to handle such disasters such as floods, increased temperatures and droughts in the future. Measures such as building hospitals and fire stations on higher grounds to escape flood waters and skyscrapers reflecting sunlight are included in the package of ideas that should allow the UK to prevail in a ‘survival of the fittest scenario’. The government’s comments contrast to the stance taken by the Labour Party who believe that ‘tackling a challenge on the scale of climate change requires state intervention and global co-operation, and cannot simply be left to the free market and private business.’ Ms. Spelman’s statement has been supported by the Adaption Sub-Committee (ASC) of the Climate Change Committee.
How the present government hopes to implement these plans though is uncertain as no extra money has been put forward to sponsor them and Ms. Spelman’s department is to experience cuts of around 40%. It is the responsibility of individual companies to protect themselves.
Sources: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment 8th September 2010
The Scottish National Party First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, has announced that the state-owned Scottish Water company are to be given permission to construct a series of renewable energy projects on their 80,000 acres of land across the country. The various projects, expected to be mainly hydro and wind orientated, could earn the company an extra £300 million a year in top of the £1 billion annual revenues it already generates. The Coalition government of the UK are believed to want to mutualise the company in order to raise towards £3 billion (a third of which would go to the Scottish government). Such an amount would help offset some of the £3.7 billion worth of cuts expected to be announced next month. The Conservatives are hoping to amend the water bill with the help of the help of Labour thereby forcing the SNP into a mutualising the state-owned company. Mr. Salmond, who is an avid supported for renewable energy, said that such a move by Scottish Water would turn Scotland into “the world’s first hydro-economy – wisely exploiting our water to help drive our economy”.
http://www.guardian.co.uk 5th September 2010
The deep spending cuts undertaken by the government have found their latest victim in the UK. The Severn Barrage, the world’s largest planned tidal energy project, will no longer be receiving public funding making it unlikely that construction will go ahead. The 10 miles tidal barrage was intended to be strung across the Severn Estuary between Somerset and South Wales and would have, if completed, supplied 5% of the UK’s electricity needs.The project needs £250 million just to get through to the planning stages but the private sector is unlikely to put forward this money due to the risk the plans will be refused. Further public investment in renewing ports’ infrastructure to improve access for wind and tidal energy technology will also be shelved.
The news will be met with mixed blessings as there are some environmental groups who believed the Severn barrage would damage local ecosystems. However, with the recent refusal to impose a moratorium on off-shore oil drilling in the North Sea, is Mr. Cameron’s government, as he says, “the greenest ever”?
Sources: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment 5th September 2010
David Miliband, one of the Labour Party leadership contenders, has attacked the coalition government for its refusal to impose a moratorium on deep-sea oil-drilling in the North Sea. The government’s refusal to disallow BP, the company responsible for world’s worst accidental oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico this year, from commencing exploratory drilling some 4,265 ft below the sea’s surface off the Shetland Islands has caused consternation from several environmental charities as well as Mr. Miliband. Lawyers from Greenpeace have threatened legal action against the coalition if it does not halt deep-sea drilling. There were those that hoped that the disaster in the Gulf would cause the government to rethink its dependence on oil. However, David Miliband is perhaps not the best candidate to lead a debate on the subject due to his previous history as Environment Secretary in the last government. As Mr. Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy said: “David Miliband was Environment Secretary under a Labour government when carbon emissions went up, green taxes went down, flood defences were cut, research into climate change was cut and British householders continued to pay hundreds of pounds a year extra heating their homes because of failed government building standards and programmes”.