The results of an investigation into environmental legislation have been announced. The Red Tape Challenge was launched by the Coalition Government in April 2011 with a key aim to reduce overall regulatory burden for business and the public in England and a stated understanding that this would instead bring in a level of trust and freedom for people to “do the right thing”. Various sectors have received special attention and the results make much of the potential for decreasing the costs for industry, particularly in relation to the recording and management of waste.
The biodiversity subsection of environment was obviously a key interest for the Woodland Trust as well as many other environmental organisations. When the opportunity to leave comments on the Government website was launched, thousands of people did just that – and over 95% of the comments wanted the existing legislation to be untouched or strengthened.
The summary of the Government response recognises this in part, saying “You told us to maintain our natural environment and wildlife protections, but simplify the complex regulatory landscape so businesses and other users can better understand the rules”. As many commenters agree, however, the word ‘you’ here can’t mean environmental NGOs or the public, but surely business.
The headline numbers are that 35 regulations will be scrapped and 69 improved. Yet most of this will wait until the results of the Law Commission investigation into wildlife law is completed in 2013 (the Law Commission investigation is a legally based attempt to clarify the role of primary and secondary legislation and guidance, it already commenced before the Red Tape Challenge was announced). There may be a need for a new Wildlife Bill in 2014.
Is the scrapping of 35 regulations and the improvement of 69 others a good thing? Difficult to say, the table within the document only lists 12 regulations to be scrapped and 42 improvements but does not necessarily detail the specific improvements to be implemented.
In the short term then, this news does not represent a threat to the conservation of woodland in England but there is obviously more to follow and we will keep an eye on the way things develop.
Frances Winder, conservation policy officer