Kwasi Kwarteng tried to play down concerns that ministers plan to tear up a series of environmental regulations in their push for growth, after a furious backlash from wildlife and green groups.
“We are not going to relax the environmental rules,” the British Chancellor told BBC One on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg’s show, saying the only aim was to cut red tape.
“What the Prime Minister and I are focused on is the process. Too often in this country the process takes too long. That doesn’t mean you change the standards, it means the process of the paperwork and the Obtaining consents takes too long.And that, as you will understand, is an obstacle to growth.
It remains to be seen whether Kwarteng’s assurances will reassure campaign groups who have reacted angrily to the apparent intention – unveiled in Friday’s unofficial budget – to ease environmental rules in 38 low-income “investment zones”. proposed regulations.
Some have also expressed concern over an apparent plan, revealed by the Observer, to scrap a post-Brexit scheme designed by former environment secretary Michael Gove that would have paid farmers and landowners to improve nature .
The Environment Land Management Scheme could be replaced by a plan simply to pay landowners a fixed annual sum for each acre of land they own.
In a strong statement Posted on Twitter on Friday, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in England said plans to change rules in investment areas “potentially destroy the most fundamental legal protections available to our remaining wildlife”.
He said, “Make no mistake, we are angry. This government today launched an attack on nature. To this day, from Cornwall to Cumbria, from Norfolk to Nottingham, wildlife faces one of the greatest threats it has faced in decades.
In a statement on Sunday, National Trust chief Hilary McGrady said it was “a crucial moment for our natural environment”.
She wrote: “Nature is in decline and we need bold action on climate change. These concerns are shared by the public. Poll after poll shows that more ambition on net zero and nature is widely supported.
“Rather than stepping up actions to support our environment, however, this government seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Environmental protections are dismissed as “burdens,” while investment and growth are opposed to nature and climate action.
“The new investment areas represent a common ground for nature and heritage, but we know that green spaces and beauty are essential for attracting investment and for a good quality of life.
“Similarly, a supposed return to EU-style land subsidies will squander one of Brexit’s greatest opportunities for nature, fatally undermining the improvements in nature, soil and water on which sustainable food production depends.
“The trust will always champion nature and heritage protections, and we will respond fully to any proposal. The UK has led the way in recent years on environmental action – from farm subsidy reform to COP26. He must not give this up for the sake of our future.