The Habitats Regulations is the most stringent of laws in force, brought forward by the European Union, and makes development on or near to, wildlife sites, virtually impossible.
But business leaders claim the laws are too restrictive.
In East Devon, areas that could be affected by a weakening in the laws, are:
– pebblebed heaths (Woodbury, Venn Ottery and Aylesbeare Commons) – one of the few places that the Dartford Warbler can still be found in the UK
– the Exe Estuary, home to many rare species of migrating birds
– the coast from Lyme Regis to Seaton
– parts of the River Axe
Natural England objected to 1000 houses proposed at St John’s Wood in Exmouth set out in the previous Local Development Framework, on the basis it breached Habitat Regulations, due to its proximity to Woodbury Common. EDDC scrapped plans, as a result.
These areas are enshrined in EU law as Special Conservation Areas or Special Areas of Protection and development near to these areas is strictly controlled, on the basis that increased visitor numbers, dogs and cats could damage nesting birds and a plethora of other wildlife.
The RSPB has reacted angrily to the plans. Mike Clarke, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told the Independent last night: “Weakening these regulations will lead to a reign of environmental destruction that we have not seen in a generation.”
And the National Planning Policy Framework, which makes it easier to build almost anywhere, is due for publication in the next few weeks.
So, will George Osborne go down in history as a brilliant economist….. or will he be known as the chancellor who wrecked (or attempted to wreck) our countryside and wildlife?
I will let you be the judge of that – but I know what I think.
I can feel another letter to Mr Swire coming on.