£3.9 billion for the English countryside

All at sea

Government outlines plans in Marine Bill White Paper

New Bill and strategy lay foundations for tackling climate change

A land fit for the future: Miliband urges radical land use rethink

SNH maps out escape routes for species moving with the climate change

Work begins on Hull woodland project

Power giant planning huge pylons in highlands accused of arrogance

£3.9 billion for the English countryside

Defra News Release Ref: 100/07 29 March 2007

A £3.9 billion budget for the new Rural Development Programme for England 2007 to 2013 has been agreed. This is more than double the budget available for the previous programme which ran from 2000-2006. This programme will implement the European Rural Development Regulation - also known as the Second Pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy.

£3.3 billion of the total budget will be allocated to agri-environment and other land management schemes. This funding will help farmers manage the land more sustainably and deliver important environmental outcomes on biodiversity, landscape and access, water quality and climate change. Some £600 million will also be made available to make agriculture and forestry more competitive and sustainable and to enhance opportunity in rural areas.

The rate of voluntary modulation (the transfer of funds from farming subsidies in the first pillar of the CAP to rural development schemes) required to underpin this budget will be 12% for 2007, rising to 13% for 2008, and 14% for the years 2009-2012.

80% of the money raised through voluntary modulation will fund agri-environment schemes and will be co-financed by the UK Government at a rate of 40%. This means that for every £60 raised for agri-environment schemes through voluntary modulation, the Government will contribute a further £40 from national funds. Based on current plans, this decision to co-finance voluntary modulation will result in a net total increase to overall CAP spending in England of some £725 million by end 2013.

The agri-environment schemes in particular will help Defra to achieve Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets on farmland birds and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) as well as delivering wider biodiversity benefits and important elements of natural resource protection and sustainable landscape management.

Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland will all be submitting separate programmes.

All at sea

The Guardian 21 March 2007

Since 2003, Lundy Island has been England's only designated marine nature reserve, and has been held up by conservationists as a potential model for many other marine protection areas, which they say are desperately needed after years of industrial fishing and exploitation of the seabed around the UK.

Even the limited protection afforded to Lundy, they say, shows how quickly sea life can recover when given a break from intensive fishing. Since trawling for fish and scallops was more or less halted there in 2003, lobsters seven times bigger than those found in nearby waters have been seen, fish numbers and species are said to have increased, and much other sea life is now flourishing.

Last week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) promised many more areas like Lundy. Coming good on Labour's election pledge to reform marine protection laws, it published a marine white paper - a draft of proposals - which, after a 12-week consultation period, could become law within a year or two if it is included in the Queen's speech in November.,,2038444,00.html

Government outlines plans in Marine Bill White Paper

DEFRA News 15 March 2007

A radical new approach to protecting and using the marine environment was set out today in proposals published by Defra. The White Paper provides an opportunity for people to help shape plans for the Government's Marine Bill.

The proposals include:

• a new UK-wide system of marine planning
• a streamlined, transparent and consistent system for licensing marine developments
• a new mechanism to protect marine biodiversity, including marine protected areas
• improvements to the management of marine fisheries
• the creation of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to join up the approach to the marine environment.

Environment Secretary David Miliband, said: “Protecting our seas is one of the biggest environmental challenges after climate change and the two are closely linked.

“I have often said that we afford much more protection to our natural environment on land because we can see it, but our marine environment suffers because its life is under water where it is not easily observed.

“Through this consultation, we want to ensure that the Marine Bill provides us with the tools to effectively manage activities in the marine area. We must deliver the right balance between protection of the environment and social and economic needs.

“A new marine planning system lies at the heart of our proposals. It will enable us to take a strategic approach to marine activities throughout our waters. It will benefit all those who use our seas and will be key to securing the maximum sustainable benefits from our marine resources, whilst ensuring we can provide proper protection for them.

The document's twelve week consultation period will conclude on 8 June.

New Bill and strategy lay foundations for tackling climate change

DEFRA News Ref: 76/07 13 March 2007

The was today set out by Environment Secretary David Miliband. The draft Climate Change Bill, the Government's blueprint for tackling climate change, sets out a framework for moving the UK to a low-carbon economy, demonstrating the UK's leadership as progress continues towards establishing a post-2012 global emissions agreement.

Key points of the draft bill include:

  • A series of clear targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions - including making the UK's targets for a 60 per cent reduction by 2050 and a 26 to 32 per cent reduction by 2020 legally binding.

  • A new system of legally binding five year “carbon budgets”, set at least 15 years ahead, to provide clarity on the UK's pathway towards its key targets and increase the certainty that businesses and individuals need to invest in low-carbon technologies.

  • A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change , to provide independent expert advice and guidance to Government on achieving its targets and staying within its carbon budgets.

  • New powers to enable the Government to more easily implement policies to cut emissions.

  • A new system of annual open and transparent reporting to Parliament. The Committee on Climate Change will provide an independent progress report to which the Government must respond. This will ensure the Government is held to account every year on its progress towards each five year carbon budget and the 2020 and 2050 targets.

  • A requirement for Government to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change and on its proposals and policy for adapting to climate change.

The draft bill will be subject to a full public consultation alongside pre-legislative scrutiny in Parliament. The strategy paper, published with the draft bill sets, out how the Climate Change Bill fits into the Government's wider international strategy and a range of future domestic policies to achieve its aims. It argues that all sectors of society will have to contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy, but that this does not mean a reduction in standards of living. It sets out a vision for how the UK can move to a low carbon economy including:

  • Investment in low-carbon fuels and technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, wind, wave and solar power.

  • Significantly more efficient use of energy.

  • A step change in the way energy suppliers operate so that they focus on reducing demand rather than just supplying as much energy as possible.

  • Consumers becoming producers as well as consumers of energy.

The draft Climate Change Bill and accompanying paper can be accessed at:

A land fit for the future: Miliband urges radical land use rethink

DEFRA 9 March 2007

Environment Secretary David Miliband today called for a "radical rethink" about land use to take account of climate change impacts and to enhance the quality and beauty of our environment.

Climate change, greater understanding of how our lifestyles affect the natural infrastructure of water, air, soil and biodiversity that underpins human life and well-being, the need for new homes and the emergence of new technology mean that we need to reassess how we make decisions on land use to leave a better legacy for future generations, Mr Miliband said today.

Looking at how land designations can be climate change proofed, Mr Miliband said there was "potential to put the green back into the green belt" as well as the development of 'turquoise belts' alongside rivers and waterways to protect homes against flooding while improving biodiversity and recreation.

Mr Miliband told a Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) conference:

“The way we use and manage land fundamentally affects our economy, our environment, and our social cohesion.

Over the next 80 years, we will face new and competing pressures that will force changes in how land is used and managed, from demographic change to climate change. Preservation of the status quo is not an option.

If we are to avoid a zero-sum game, with economic or environmental goals being at the expense of the other, we need a new vision for how to use land in this country.

We will need more development. But if we focus it in urban areas and continue our urban renaissance, and if it is zero or low carbon, we can preserve the countryside and the planet. We need to make our green belt land more attractive – a basis for wildlife and recreation. We need farming to become a net environmental contributor, with subsidy tied to delivering environmental public goods. And we need less productive farmland to be ‘re-wilded’ – for woodlands, heathland and fenland.

Delivering this vision of a new, but beautiful Britain will require changes in our systems of planning, agriculture and land use. But most of all it will require us to be brave enough to ask the fundamental questions of what land is for, and how we can value it.

We should aim to develop a more proactive and positive to approach to land. The environmental focus on planning is often the control of development. Environmental value is protected and preserved rather than proactively enhanced. We need to think of quality green space as a sort of infrastructure – an investment in a physical asset that produces environmental, social and economic value equivalent to building roads and schools. So as more land is developed for housing, business or transport, we need to think about how funding mechanisms such as Section 106 and in future, Planning Gain Supplement can be used to invest not only in brown infrastructure – roads, railways, and power stations - but ‘green infrastructure’ in and around our cities and towns where most people live.

I have set out my views on some of the ways we might reshape the way we think about land. But this is not an agenda that should be left to political parties or politicians. It goes to the core of the way we live, the country we want to build and the legacy we want to leave for future generations. It can capture the imagination and passion of people for whom politics is often a remote concern. Government can help to spark a debate, but if we are to get a more mature, engaged debate, we must mobilise a broad coalition of interests, from citizens and community groups to farmers, developers, and local government."

The full speech can be found at:

SNH maps out escape routes for species moving with the climate change

SNH Press Release 6 March 2007

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has launched a programme to help Scotland's native wildlife survive major impacts of climate change. The Long March - Spatial Adaptation to Climate Change is a new initiative by the agency's land science specialists to identify escape routes for species to relocate to suitable new habitats.

The aim of the programme is to create natural movement corridors including artificial landscape features where necessary, allowing species to relocate if their traditional habitats become uninhabitable due to rising temperatures and raised sea levels.

The Long March project will monitor habitats with a view to enabling the predicted geographical movement North as species react to habitat and climate changes. SNH 's strategy is to gather together all available data on species movements, lifecycle behaviour and ability to cover distance to ensure there will be escape routes from Scotland's changing habitats. A key focus of the programme will be to identify obvious barriers to these natural movements so that suitable habitat linkage and connections can be artificially created where possible.

Land Use Group Manager Duncan Stone is coordinating the strategy to identify potential barriers and geographical 'pinch points' where species might be prevented from following an instinctive migration path. He says:
"Looking ahead we intend to develop a list of vulnerable yet mobile species which given half a chance can naturally adapt and move their habitat. But before we attempt to plan ways to help them move any distance we need to think about the way species perceive their own habitats. In short, try to see the world through their eyes. For instance research suggests some butterflies will not cross any large expanse of open ground, hills, or even tall trees. Some woodland birds such as the tree creeper will only foray 10 metres distance out from woodland cover even though they are capable of flying many kilometres. Similarly roads, especially major ones can be very difficult barriers for amphibians to cross. In similar circumstances the Dutch have built large grass-covered landscape bridges 200 metres wide to span motorways and create really strong habitat connections. "

"The aim of the Long March will be to ensure these species have a countryside permeable and continuous enough to allow them to spread north through their own natural behaviour. To do that we'll compare their movement needs with the nature of the landscape at specific pinch-points where open country is limited. Examples include the area between Airdrie and Falkirk, or the thin strip of low ground between the sea at Stonehaven and the upland forests at the eastern margins of the Grampian mountains. We'll assess whether the pinch-point actually allows species to pass through on their 'long march', and identify the significant elements which could be protected or changed to maintain and improve connectivity. "

Work begins on Hull woodland project

BBC News 5 March 2007

The £55,000 HEYwoods project to turn a disused airfield into a woodland has started. Over the next month 7,000 oak, ash and maple trees will be planted at the 3.25 hectare Hedon Airfield, near Hull.

The site is owned by Hull City Council while the East Riding of Yorkshire Council will oversee the planting work. Those helping to fund trees and fencing include Yorkshire Water, BP Chemicals, Saltend Cogeneraton Company and Nippon Gohsei UK.

Stephen Robinson, of the HEYwoods initiative, said: "Most people are aware that Hull and the East Riding make up one of the least wooded areas of the country. The Hedon Airfield woodland project is an excellent example of providing a scheme that offers the range of environmental, economic and social benefits that an increased level of woodland can bring to our area."

All the planting is expected to be completed by the end of March.

Power giant planning huge pylons in highlands accused of arrogance

Press & Journal 5 March 2007

The power giant planning to double the size of hundreds of pylons running through the Highlands has been accused by objectors groups and landowners of arrogance and of pre-judging the public inquiry into the issue.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has published a long list of potential compulsory purchase orders along the 137-mile route to accommodate the project. Included are “wayleaves" - which promise landowners a fee for developer access.

Andrew Fielden, who represents the family owners of the Ardverikie Estate, said: "We are not going to grant any wayleaves until the outcome of the inquiry. They're asking for wayleaves for something they haven't actually got planning consent for. If they compulsorily purchase in the meantime I think it rather negates the whole point of the inquiry."

Eddie Hughes, chairman of Highlands Before Pylons, said: "This is indicative of SSE's total ignorance towards the objectors' feelings. They're not giving the inquiry an opportunity to consider all the alternatives. It just emphasises the lack of democracy and power that the Electricity Act gives to transmission operators. Things like wayleaves should be properly negotiated. But SSE have been as heavy-handed as ever, making a mockery of consultation."

SSE spokesman Julian Reeves summed up the criticism that the company was premature or presumptuous by advertising compulsory purchase orders during the inquiry as "mischief-making" and "absolute nonsense".

He said: "This is being driven by the Scottish Executive who've taken the very sensible approach that, while we're carrying out the local hearings as part of the public inquiry, for example the one in Inverness, the same (executive) reporters should also listen to any hearings in respect of compulsory purchases or wayleaves associated with the line at the time. It doesn't presume anything because at the end of the day if the result of the inquiry is that we should not build we just walk away from everything".

Responding to complaints that notice of the orders was limited, he insisted company had adhered to stipulated levels of advertising and that the company was also speaking directly with all the landowners affected.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority is, meanwhile, writing to the public inquiry reporters' unit to press for a transcript of daily proceedings to be published to make the hearing more accessible to people living along the route who cannot attend the Perth proceedings.