MPs and Peers returned to Westminster on Monday 14th October for the State Opening of Parliament. This included a Queen’s Speech, read by the Queen but written by the Government, which outlines new laws they plan to bring forward.
We’ve come up with our priorities for action the Government should take in this new session to see special places looked after forever, for everyone. We’re sharing it with all political parties as policy suggestions to address some of the key challenges we’re facing.
In this blog, Rick Hebditch, Our Government Affairs & Advocacy Director outlines some of the highlights – for all policy areas check out our full list here.
Top of the list is protecting and enhancing our environment. We know that nature is in serious decline, as this month’s State of Nature report so starkly set out. This decline can be halted – and reversed, but we need to act now.
1.A world leading Environment Bill
The government have promised to deliver an ambitious Environment Bill and we want to see the introduction of a truly world-leading Bill: one that sets up an independent watchdog to hold the Government and public bodies to account with real teeth, sets tangible, time-bound targets for the recovery of nature in law and that establishes an effective Nature Recovery Network, with adequate resources and powers for its delivery.
2. An Agriculture Bill with public money for public goods at its heart
We want to see Parliament reintroducing an Agriculture Bill with public money for public goods at its heart, paying farmers for the invaluable work they do to protect biodiversity, improve water quality and adapt to climate change. This must be backed up with long-term funding for farmers, matched to the scale of need, and upholding our high environmental standards in any future trade deal.
3. Support for natural climate solutions
Nature restoration and climate mitigation can be delivered hand-in-hand if we can help natural carbon stores, such as peatlands, woodlands and salt-marsh to recover, and encourage private markets for ecosystem services, which could include carbon storage as well as flood management. The National Trust is doing some of this work at our places, but Government should drive this process through its farm support system, and additional funding and regulation – for instance by phasing out the use of peat in compost.
We know that #PlacesMatter, just as our founders did in the 19th Century. A new Parliament is an opportunity to ensure the places we love are looked after properly.
4. Investment in Parks and Green Space
Where better to support place-making than the parks and green spaces at the hearts of our communities? With our parks in crisis after years of budget cuts, the Government should invest in these assets, by helping councils to look at new ways of funding and unlocking their benefits for everyone, from access to nature to health and wellbeing.
5. Support our planning system – and improve access to the Green Belt
A new Parliament must commit to supporting our planning system and ensure that local plans deliver development that actively improves conditions for nature and enhances the things that make a place special and different. The Government should continue to protect the Green Belt, and focus on improving the quality of Green Belt land by planting trees to help with climate change, and create new, nature-rich areas for people to enjoy. This could be done by creating Green Belt management plans.
6. Support communities to look after local Heritage
Much of our urban heritage is under threat. Ministers should provide support and resources to help communities restore and make use of heritage assets and secure their long-term future.
7. Make sure structural funding post-Brexit works for the whole of society
Parliament will need to consider the replacement to current EU structural funding, that currently supports a vast range of projects, from rural development to enhancing our environment. It’s essential that the replacement for this supports communities across the UK – not just urban areas – and works with sectors across society, including small businesses and charities.