The Wildlife Trusts lose patience over new attack on nature

The Wildlife Trusts today voice exasperation at George Osborne’s autumn budget statement which includes plans to review the rules which protect some of the most important wildlife sites in England.

It seems that the Chancellor is not content with the massive shake-up of the planning system that is already under way. Now sites and species of European importance face an uncertain future in England. 

The Government’s own National Ecosystem Assessment and Natural Environment White Paper, both published in June this year, were to herald a positive change in nature’s fortunes. Yet taking England’s much depleted wildlife into a more positive future is clearly far from the Chancellor’s agenda. 

The Wildlife Trusts are well known for taking a pragmatic and constructive stance when dealing with developers, local authorities and with the national Government. However, this review risks driving a wedge between developers and conservationists and at this time of economic difficulty we should be co-operating more than ever to deliver a sustainable future for the country.

Our protected habitats and species of European importance – Special Areas of Conservation established under the EU Habitats Directive and Special Protection Areas established under the EU Birds Directive – are the very foundation of environmental protection on land and at sea. They are key to our quality of life and provide places for nature in our densely populated country. Reviewing protection in an attempt to ease the way for major developments risks harming people as well as wildlife.

The chairs and chief executives of the 47 Wildlife Trusts met last week and heard from the New Economics Foundation about the urgent need for a fundamentally different economic model that takes into account that our natural resources are being rapidly depleted.  Only such a dramatic shift will secure a society that can thrive whilst addressing climate change and reversing the loss of biodiversity. 

Want to know more?

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment states:  “The natural world, its biodiversity and its constituent ecosystems are critically important to our well-being and economic prosperity, but are consistently undervalued in conventional economic analyses and decision-making.”

The Natural Environment White Paper (chapter three paragraph 3.6) states “The Government is committed to putting the value of natural capital at the heart of our economic thinking.”

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)

Much of the Durham Coast and the North Pennines are designated as a SAC.

SACs are areas which have been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. They provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity. Find out more about them on

Special Protection Areas (SPAs)

Much of the Durham Coast and the North Pennines are designated as a SAC.

SPAs are areas which have been identified as being of international importance for the breeding, feeding, wintering or the migration of rare and vulnerable species of birds found within European Union countries. They are European designated sites, classified under the ‘Birds Directive 1979’ which provides enhanced protection given by the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status all SPAs also hold.  Find out more about them on