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08/08/2016

We must protect wildlife legislation post-Brexit

Emerging legal protection for the UK's most 'special; places and wildlife needs to continue to be consistent with international best practice, urges the RSPB's Juliette Young.

The outcome of the EU Referendum will mean different things to different people. For planners it could add uncertainty and complexity to an already challenging climate. But whatever political changes develop across the UK, at the RSPB we will continue to seek action for nature both internationally and at home. The public expects high standards of nature protection. 

We are pleased with the clarity provided by former Prime Minister David Cameron, during Prime Minister’s Questions on 27th June that “We remain a full member of the EU and must meet our obligations as a member… including the existing directives..”  This is an important signal to planning professionals, developers and others to encourage a period of calm before any formal talks. 

The RSPB’s priorities, consistent with those in the wider environmental NGO community, are clear. We will work to ensure that existing levels of protection are maintained or bolstered. A coherent network of well-managed protected areas on land and at sea, combined with species protection legislation, is fundamental to our efforts to maintain or restore wildlife populations. In turn, this provides clarity to the planning community on which areas of land are unsuitable for development and which species are afforded protection. This helps to de-risk planning decisions and reduce the need for costly mitigation. 

“It is vital that any emerging legal protection for our most special places for wildlife across the UK is consistent with international best practice”  

It is vital that any emerging legal protection for our most special places for wildlife across the UK is consistent with international best practice and at least equivalent to that provided by the EU Nature Directives. Consequently, we will argue to retain the relevant legislation that enacts the EU Nature Directives in all four countries of the UK. 

Planning practice has improved through the application of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of plans and programmes and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of development projects – both procedures having emerged through the application of the SEA and EIA EU Directives. As well as ensuring the ‘environment’ is given due consideration in plan-making and project development, SEA and EIA provide a forum for public engagement. 

We will work to retain at least an equivalent framework, level of protection and level of engagement in decision-making as is provided for by the current UK legislation, ensuring that practice fully delivers against the objectives of the relevant legislation.

Juliette Young is senior policy officer for the RSPB

Image credit | Shutterstock

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