Weakened Environment Bill?
The Environment Bill, currently at the House of Lords Committee stage, replaces EU law with Government’s legal responsibility for our environment’s care and protection, ranging from pollution, plastics to water and waste management, and habitat restoration. Unlike Ministers’ acceptance of the Climate Change Committee’s net-zero carbon emissions target by focussing on clean technologies by 2050, this Bill’s weakly worded targets give no set date for the Government to halt the decades of decline for the majority of our wildlife’s native species. More than 25 organisations expressed this concern in a letter to PM Boris Johnson, criticising much-weakened protections for Habitat Regulations likely to apply to England’s planning applications. The Committee on Climate Change 2019 urged a minimum 40% extension by 2050 in our nation’s current hedge network, which capture carbon and comprise natural habitats. The Government’s NPPF, requiring the maximum dwellings possible on every planning application, effectively destroys the readily developed ‘green’ sites’ bio-diversity whilst providing a ‘developers’ charter’, whose CIL moneys don’t replace established habitat. The Government claims that nationally, planting trees replaces bull-dozed ancient woodlands, but vital wildlife corridors are removed. Mainland housing developments, and Sinah Field’s fencing for species’ evaluations are effectively removing Havant’s diminishing habitat.
One of Sinah Field’s 26 Conditions is the proven functioning of the over-wintering wildfowl mitigation site, yet HBC’s Planning Officer stated permission will follow Sec. 106 CIL agreement – itself related to proven success of the small, onsite proposed refuge at the north end of the field. But the latest Habitats Regulation and Additional Assessment 31st March found: in 2019 the whole Sinah field was categorised as a Core (not Primary as claimed) Support Area. The Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy, an NPPF supporting document, demands mitigation of the same or greater size and matching or better quality than the existing field. Therefore, this smaller ‘replacement’ refuge is not adequate regardless of the consistent food crop proposed. This is the subject of significant complaint against HBC who did not reveal this information to Consultees, Councillors or the Public for either Application. Therefore planning approval was given based on inaccurate information and should be completely reviewed.
Havant’s 40 Acres Farm’s pre-building surveys, claiming “not development”, removed winter-time top soil, when Brent Geese/Waders needed the crop. 7 ft fencing, separating the northern so-called wildlife ‘mitigation’ site near the motorway from development, trapped deer using this wildlife corridor. Meanwhile 6 geese decoys attempting to encourage wildfowl have failed. Complaints to Natural England were reportedly ignored but were followed by inquiries about wildfowl numbers in 2020. I understand another ‘mitigation’ site failure, in Bedhampton, west of the Rusty Cutter, left a narrow gap for wildlife by Portsdown Rd., but it actually covers a gas pipeline, and its ‘success’ is uncertain. Deer moving north over Havant Rd. must cross Portsdown Hill Rd. but there is no road sign ‘Beware of deer’; with more developments planned, where can our limited wildlife go?
These examples are a warning for Hayling, where fields and tracks still provide wildlife corridors for deer and wildfowl. The June auction of the Pycroft property and Stoke Common, totalling 16.5 acres, if developed will further constrict the Island’s natural habitat. Action, not “world-leading” rhetoric, is needed from all levels of government.