Michael Grove’s length speech at the Oxford Farming Conference (4 Jan 2017) mentioned ‘biodiversity’ twice, and ‘Green Brexit’ once. It is encouraging and surprising times for wildlife and nature conservation with Secretary of State Gove at the Defra helm. ..’we will design…through countryside stewardship and agri-environmental schemes…to enhance the natural environment by planting new woodlands, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity…and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states.’ The Government now has a wildlife mission, a vital one no less: ‘Enhancing our natural environment is a vital mission for this Government.’ And they will be delivering a ‘Green Brexit’ by implementing various policies after leaving the EU. Gove bases a lot of his background information on ‘Natural Capital’ that reflects back to the initiatives of the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) set up in 2012. Gove is clearly enamoured by the countryside ‘ I am moved by the beauty of our natural environment’ promising ‘a truly sustainable future for the countryside’. Let’s see how this Green Brexit grows.
Biodiversity in the T&C EIA Regs 2017 – about people and quality of life
Notwithstanding the good if not adequate guidance in BS4040 on biodiversity in 2013, the 2017 T&C EIA Regulations breathe new life into the consideration of biodiversity. Whereas the concept of biodiversity was often an add-on partner in a planning application, the new T&C EIA Regs have included it in Schedule 4 as a necessity. It has included it with other topics that were not always top of the agenda, such as assessing significant effects on population, human health, biodiversity, land soil, water and landscape. Not only are the adverse effects of people an issue in EIA consideration, the effects on people is now recognised with a requirement to deal with, including objectivity and bias. These new Regs still defer to the Habitats and Birds Directives (92/43/EEC(a) & 2009/147/EC(b) respectively, as per Section 2(b)) for the applicability of the various habitats and species, but they bring together for the first time a combined obligatory assessment of all four matters, under 2(e). This is a gold-plating exercise under Regulation 26. There is thus a specific requirement ‘to assess the interaction between the factors’ listed (a-d) as ‘population and human health’ (sub-paragraph (a)) all the habitats and species in the two EU Directives named above (sub-paragraph (b)), ‘land, soil, water, air and climate’ (sub-paragraph (c)) and ‘material assets, cultural heritage and the landscape’ (sub-paragraph (d)). Biodiversity is thus centre-stage in the EIA consideration of any plan or development and has to be dealt with ‘in the round’ with all these other matters which add up to a considerate approach to living in a better environment and improved quality of life for people.
Wildlife Matters is proud to be part of a Planning Potential team which was recently granted approval for a 73 bed hotel at Headley next to the Wealden Heath Phase 2 Special Protection Area (SPA). Wildlife Matters advised on appropriate mitigation to protect the notified habitats and species: Dartford Warbler, Woodlark and Nightjar (East Hants DC #20583/030).
Asian Hornets – latest works
Feltwell, J. 2016. Identification features of the Asian Hornet. BBKA News. The newsletter of The British Beekeepers’ Association. No:223 – March 2016. 81-83.
Feltwell, J. 2017. The arrival of the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina Lepeletier, 1836 into the UK in 2016. Antenna 41 (2) 59-64.
Jersey Evening Post, 25 October 2017. Asian hornets: Praise for ‘model approach’.https://jerseyeveningpost.com/news/2017/10/25/asian-hornets-praise-for-model-approach/ about John Feltwell’s visit to Jersey
UKELA’s meeting (25 Sept) on adapting to the changes brought in by the New EIA Regulations was kindly hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills. The ‘2017 Regulations’ came into force on 16 May 2017  and the evening event was a revealing and forthright résumé by experts in the field: Josh Fothergill (Fothergill Training), Rufus Howard (Royal HaskoningDHV) and Harriet Peacock (Tower Hamlets). What was made abundantly clear was that EIA in future should be scaled down from the excesses of paperwork that has escalated over the last ten years: the EIA for Hinckley ran to 35,000 pages. Less than 1% of the yearly 400,000 planning applications are EIAs and they vary enormously in quality. The way ahead is cutting through traditional EIAs to deal with ‘likely significant effects’ (LSE) simplifying planning applications for LPAs who are restricted by resources and manpower. Anything to assist LPAs deal with the paperwork is welcome, to speed the process through planning applications; a pragmatic approach is recommended, covering all relevant topics and LSE. Getting back to lightening paperwork via FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impacts) was promoted as a way to suggest alternative ways of dealing with ecological issues. Scoping should deal with which schedules to cover, and screening should screen subjects in or out. There was more on following the ‘spirit’ of the law rather than the ‘letter’ of the law. The ‘2017 Regulations’ now have a definition (there was none in the 2011 regulations). Project areas for consideration now have been brought back to 0.5ha from 15ha (1.1(a)). The ‘2017 Regulations’ still have passages which are open to interpretation such as ‘where appropriate’. There was a call to have more SEAs in the UK (to fall in line other countries in Europe). There is a brand new section on Biodiversity in Schedule 4 combining other disciplines such as assessing significant effects on population, human health, biodiversity, land soil, water…landscape, a sort of ‘gold-plating’ cross-referencing with Regulation 26 exercise to cover all important issues that also includes objectivity and bias.
John Feltwell’s book on ‘Meadows, A History and Natural History’ even more relevant today
Education is for life, not just for children.
John Feltwell’s contribution – six children’s books in at least 26 languages
RBG Kew confirms that samples from more than 50% of the 214 seed and herbarium specimens collected by myself in the 1980s in the Old and New World virgin rainforests and deserts have been sent out to researchers around the world. The collection is now safely housed in the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) at Wakehurst Place, Sussex.
Here is Dr John Feltwell’s prescient assessment on global warming and climate change as published in his 2008 book on ‘Rainforests’ 646pp (ISBN 978-0-907970-08-8). Chapter 5 Global Warming. 22pp illustrated:
RBG Kew. 2016. The State of the World’s Plants. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 80pp (also on-line).
It was a surprise that the world’s plants had not had been put under the microscope before, but this timely report sets the record straight, and will be an annual event. This is a major work brought together and verified by scores of eminent botanists worldwide. The brutal message is that the quantum of plants is declining. There are three sections to the book, first, how many plants are there (391,000 vascular plants) second, threats, including climate change, and third, policies and international trade. The stark facts are highlighted throughout the book in large print: 21% of global plant species currently threatened with extinction, one in five of plants threatened with extinction. This is not compensated by the 2,034 new plant species logged up to March 2016. Genome sequencing is running apace, with 136 species whose whole-genome sequences are known. There are an amazing 31,128 species of ‘useful plants’ and 1,771 ‘important plant areas’ but, worryingly very few of these areas are protected. There are 4,979 species now documented as invasive; they say it is inevitable that with globalisation the incidence of invasives will rise. On climate change they agree that ‘>10% of the earth’s vegetated surface demonstrates high sensitivity to climate change.’ This year the review focussed on Brazil where there 32,109 native Brazilian seed plants known to science and where more seed plants are known than any other country in the world. There are 219 scientific references in the book, just in case anyone wants to dispute the facts. It will be interesting to compare parameters next year on the world’s inventory of plants. Clearly, then, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about plants.