The government has announced plans for 27 'investment zones' to encourage development and boost economic growth. (Photo: Chris Ison - PA Images via Getty Images)
Conservationist groups have accused the government of waging “a war on nature” over plans to encourage development to boost economic growth.
Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on Friday contained proposals which would see the creation of 38 “investment zones” across England, where planning laws would be relaxed.
According to organisations like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the National Trust, the policy would threaten the future wildlife habitats and undermine the government’s environmental commitments.
The RSPB said: “Make no mistake, we are angry. This Government has today launched an attack on nature. We don’t use the words that follow lightly. We are entering uncharted territory.”
⚠️😡Make no mistake, we are angry. This Government has today launched an attack on nature. We don’t use the words that follow lightly. We are entering uncharted territory. Please read this thread. 1/13 pic.twitter.com/NAPfIjLZKA
— RSPB England 🌍 (@RSPBEngland) September 23, 2022
Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust, said: “Rather than ramp up action to support our environment, this government appears however to be heading in the opposite direction.
“Environmental protections are dismissed as ‘burdens’, whilst investment and growth are pitted against nature and climate action.
“The new investment zones represent a free-for-all for nature and heritage, yet we know that green spaces and beauty are vital to attract investment and for a good quality of life.”
She added: “The Trust will always defend protections for nature and heritage, and we will respond in full to any proposals.
“The UK has led the way in recent years on environment action - from farm subsidy reform to COP26. It mustn’t abandon this for our future’s sakes.”
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, told the PA news agency: “Environmental organisations were concerned that vital nature protections would be lost through Brexit but we were told all would be fine.
“Instead we have a catastrophe. Farming reform was supposed to be the silver lining but now the government looks set to renege on that too.”
Asked about the row on the BBC this morning, Kwarteng said: “We are not going to relax environmental rules.”
On Twitter, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) dismissed claims the Government is attacking nature.
“We have a plan for economic growth,” it tweeted.
“It is not true to claim we are attacking nature nor going back on our commitments.
“We have legislated through the Environment Act and will continue to improve our regulations and wildlife laws in line with our ambitious vision.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.