Westminster Letter

2019 – the Year of Green Action

2019 is the Year of Green Action and throughout this year the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working on new initiatives to enhance and protect the environment.

Before Christmas I expect that a lot of people in Chesham and Amersham took a little bit of time during the busy festive season to send in their views about the consultation on whether there should be new National Parks. The Chilterns is such a wonderful place, protected by Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status, (except for HS2 of course) so we will see what the outcome is in due course.

There is now another consultation running, which is about whether conservation covenants should be introduced to safeguard treasured habitats. Conservation covenants are voluntary but legally-binding agreements which enable landowners to leave a permanent conservation legacy on their land, for future generations. These covenants are already used successfully in other countries and could help to bring about long-term environmental benefits by improving habitats as well as stewarding what is there now.

These covenants would be binding on future owners of the land and they would be supervised by responsible bodies to ensure that land management obligations are delivered.

Although it is potentially a positive step forward, I do have some regrets because, on looking through the proposals I wonder what would prevent, for instance, a national infrastructure project like HS2 which will result in irreplaceable ancient woodland, a haven for flora and fauna, being destroyed. It is protection from these major infrastructure projects that would be a meaningful change.

The theme of the Year of Green Action is to nurture the idea that we should try to leave the environment in a better state than the one in which we found it. That is an aim which can be shared by many, not just those who are stewards of the landscape, but by everyone who is trying to cut down on plastic waste, reduce their carbon footprint, support campaigns to clean up our oceans or improve our air quality.

[This article previously appeared in Your Chesham and Your Amersham magazine]