WIRRAL wildlife charities have reacted angrily to Government proposals to weaken some of the UK and Europe’s highest-level wildlife protection laws.
Chancellor George Osborne has spoken of a need to slacken the “gold-plated” regulations which he says are affecting the ability of the UK to progress with key infrastructure and construction projects.
This follows a Government announcement of a 12-month delay in the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) following a £9m public consultation.
Large areas of the Mersey estuary are designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the rules, which have been in place for 17 years.
The news could also impact on the Dee Estuary, Abbots Moss and Holcroft Moss.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s director of conservation Charlotte Harris said: “It appears the self-titled ‘greenness’ of this Government is being washed away with every new announcement they make on our environment.
“Their positive approaches with the National Ecosystem Assessment and Natural Environment White Paper for Nature were a massive step in the right direction, but it now appears they are giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
“The question now is when will this constant stalling and watering down of decades of wildlife protection come to an end?”
The Birds and Habitats Directive, which is enforced through the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the UK, is the basis for both SPAs and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designations – the highest site protection offered for wildlife across the EU.
Paul Corner, Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s planning officer, added: “We are working daily with developers and construction teams throughout the region to ensure that planning proposals can go ahead while meeting the needs of the legislation, which is there to stop our most valuable wildlife habitats being concreted over.
“In many cases new development can actually provide an opportunity to enhance an area for biodiversity, but it is vital our most precious and valuable wild places are afforded that ring-fence of the highest protection.”