A lesson in sandcastle maintenance

(Also known as the biodiversity duty for public authorities.)

Under the biodiversity duty (published 2006), public authorities must consider how to conserve biodiversity in all their actions. Oddly, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England have just now published guidance on how this should be achieved.

Sadly, as we have come to expect, this guidance is all about minimising ‘red tape’ and as such it’s stripped back to the point of indecency! Regular readers of our blog will know that we often take issue with government guidance that lacks the detail required to make it useful and that often dismisses or ignores the issue of irreplaceable ancient woodland. This guidance, however, takes this to a whole other level, managing to be factually incorrect as well as breathtakingly scant on any useful detail. Such is the poor quality of the new guidance that some well-qualified commentators have described it as ‘useless’ and ‘bizarre’ – some have gone as far as suggesting it was a draft that was published in error!

Image: tamingthegoblin.com

Image: tamingthegoblin.com

So what is so wrong with this guidance? Well, from a Woodland Trust point of view there is no specific mention of irreplaceable habitats, or ancient woodland. Its consideration of tree planting is derisory:

‘using sustainably sourced native tree and plant species in new planting’

– this is just common sense; what does ‘sustainably sourced’ actually mean? Just a small amount of detail could give so much more value to something that is surely fundamental to any long-term commitment to biodiversity.

Worryingly, the guidance fails to mention Parish and Town Councils which fall under Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 Duty. As the importance of neighbourhood planning continues to grow this would appear to be a glaring error.

The document goes on to deliver more pearls of wisdom: “Public Authorities should be putting up nest boxes at schools and keeping verges clear of litter.” If it wasn’t so depressing it would be funny.

Here is our favourite piece of advice from the guidance to leave you with:

‘Public authorities can promote biodiversity at beaches by……creating canals to act as habitats for wildlife’

Maybe the authors need to learn about the engineering challenges of building sandcastles before they attempt to write any more guidance on biodiversity. Otherwise our precious ancient woodland will continue to go the way of sandcastles…

Needless to say we will of course be speaking to DEFRA and Natural England about this guidance, to both express our disappointment and to ask for it to be revoked and updated as soon as possible.

Victoria Bankes Price, Planning Adviser



About Kaye Brennan

Trying vegan, staying warm. Occasional bursts of words.
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Conservation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A lesson in sandcastle maintenance

  1. Ash says:

    How to write something & mean nothing! Politicians are getting worse by the minute! We’re in for so much nonsense when the election comes round.

  2. Moray says:

    Is that it! Biodiversity light. What a disgrace. It written as if its giving guidance for primary school children’s homework assignments.

    • Victoria Bankes Price says:

      It really does make for pretty depressing reading, but its good to hear changes are being made to it already!

  3. Peter Kyte says:

    I am not surprised, this governments green credentials are the pits. If it cannot be measured in terms of profitability, then it hits a blank wall.

    • Victoria Bankes Price says:

      It’s just trying to get the message across that by neglecting the environment you can only hurt the bottom line in the end, it’s just a matter of time.

  4. Victoria Bankes Price says:

    Many thanks for reblogging everyone. Thanks for that Richard, I had better recycle my copy and print off a fresh one!

  5. sherwoodforestcommunityvision says:
  6. Derek West says:

    This is the kind of nonsense I associate with this government when discussing environmental issues,they have not got a clue,educated idiots.

  7. Victoria,

    Thanks for posting this. Defra has now removed the canals in beaches and lot of the other farcical stuff. Unfortunately, they haven’t added anything so in terms of helpful content, it is even worse.


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