Government's 'dash for growth' policies slammed in South Tyneside as 'three-pronged attack on nature'
South Tyneside Green Party councillors have slammed the Government for what they say is a three-pronged ‘attack on nature’.
Liz Truss’s new Government is pressing ahead with a series of policies Ministers say will help boost Britain’s economy and tackle the cost of living crisis.
But conservationists called plans outlined in the ‘mini-budget’ at the end of September an ‘attack on nature’, with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust all voicing concerns.
These include the Conservative Government’s proposed 38 investment zones – areas in England where planning rules will be loosened to release more land for commercial and housing developments.
Green Party councillors in South Tyneside added their voices to the concerns, adding there were also fears over plans to ‘rip up environmental protections introduced by the EU’ and withdraw plans to help farmers to protect nature, with reports suggesting the ‘Environmental Land Management Scheme’ (ELMS) has been ‘put on hold’ in a ‘dash for growth’.
A statement issued by Councillor David Francis, leader of the Green Party group on South Tyneside Council, said: “There is widespread anger in response to Government plans to remove fundamental legal protections for our environment.
"Opposition has come from many organisations ranging from the RSPB and National Trust through to the Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth.
“Alongside the reckless approach to the nation's finances, the Government seems intent on tearing up protection for nature.”
It adds: "There is no mandate for these measures: they actually reverse the direction of travel on the environment in your 2019 manifesto and have never been put to the British people.
“Yet we know people’s livelihoods and local economies can be put on a sound footing with a three-pronged approach to investment: in nature recovery, in renewable energy and in home insulation to reduce energy bills.
"Research has shown that ‘Protection and use of environmental assets is key to evening out economic imbalances between metropolitan and rural areas’.
"In other words, the recovery of nature and the revival of local living standards should and can go hand-in hand.”
The statement was issued in an open letter to Cleadon and Boldon councillor Ian Foster, who is the Conservative Party’s only representative of South Tyneside Council.
In response, Cllr Forster said he always put his ward and borough first.
“You will have noticed in the chamber I vote for what I believe is right for our community even if it goes against Government policy, if it ever leads to criticism from my party so be it,” he responded to Cllr Francis, citing is own local opposition to development on green belt land.
“One of the main reasons I became a councillor was to try and protect our environment that was my pledge to the folk of Cleadon and East Boldon and that had not changed .
“I’m a member of the RSPB and have been so for many years.
“My motion at the last council, I appreciate your parties support, demonstrates my determination to protect our green belt.”
Cllr Forster said he was seeking clarification from the Conservative Councillors Association asking for clarification on a number of issues around developing on the green belt.
Regarding the economy, he added: “At least Cllr Francis knows where the Conservatives stand and how we see the answer to the problem which is just not effecting our country but the world, so my question would be what financial plan do the Green Party have to deal with the aftermath of Covid and the war in Ukraine .
“We need to keep all fuel options on the table in this unstable world, so how would the Green Party ensure we have the fuel capacity we need now .
“Of course we would all like 100% affordable renewable energy today but the reality is until it is an option, we need to keep our options open.”