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Green groups warn ministers ‘careless talk costs protected landscapes’

Words: Huw Morris

Environmental charities are calling on the government to avoid undermining protections against damaging development in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

A letter sent to business minister Richard Harrington, coordinated by the Campaign for National Parks and signed by 19 organisations, follows what they describe as his “careless words” which undermine designated landscapes from inappropriate development, including the disposal of nuclear waste.

While giving evidence to the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee earlier this year, Harrington used the Wordsmith Mine in the North York Moors to argue for the adoption of a national policy statement on geological disposal infrastructure. The committee later concluded that designated landscapes should not be ruled out as possible locations, which campaigners say puts national parks at risk.

“The approval of one inappropriate development should not be used to justify further damage to areas which are protected for the nation for their wildlife, natural beauty and recreational opportunities,” the letter states.

“When granting approval for the Woodsmith Mine in 2015, members of the North York Moors National Park Authority chose to prioritise the potential economic benefits of the project over the environmental impacts. But it was clear from the officers’ report that the proposal would do significant harm to the national park’s special qualities and this is now proving to be the case.”

The letter adds that implying such development has “no negative impacts is particularly disappointing” in the context of the Glover Review of designated landscapes launched in May and the 25-year Environment Plan.

Signatories to the letter include the Broads Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the National Trust and the Woodland Trust.

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