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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what happened in the last month. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Ellie Ward. To subscribe please enter your email here.

April 2022

Matt's Horizon Scan 

The date of the Queens Speech has now been confirmed for 10 May, and recent weeks have seen a scramble to get Bills already in progress through their final parliamentary stages. Happily, one of the Bills that has made it is the Animal Sentience Bill, which restores recognition of animal sentience to UK law and was given Royal Assent on 28 April. Other animal welfare bills have not been so fortunate, with the Kept Animals Bill failing to complete its passage in time, requiring ‘carry-over’ to the next parliamentary session, and the Animals Abroad Bill failing to make an appearance at all. The Queens Speech will tell us which Bills will accompany those carried over, and how ambitious the Government’s legislative intentions are. With reports of a caution-first approach gaining ground in cabinet, concerns are rising that promised further advances for animal welfare could be delayed again.


Environmental Policy News 


Welcome news on marine protections

Following years of campaigning, members of the Link marine group welcomed significant new protections for four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) announced by the Government in April. Byelaws restricting damaging fishing activities, including bottom trawling in some areas, will come into force in June in the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation, the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation, the South Dorset Marine Conservation Zone and the Canyons Marine Conservation Zone.

Whilst the byelaws are welcome, they have a limited range, as the four MPAs covered represent just 10% offshore MPAs. Link continue to call for Government to deliver protection for the remaining 36 offshore MPAs as promised in January, with the protections being implemented by 2024 and effective monitoring and management put in place to uphold them. This is an essential step to meeting the 2030 target of having 30% of English seas within fully or highly protected MPAs.


Sewage overflow protections – do they go far enough?

Autumn 2021 saw a wave of public outrage about sewage polluting waterways as a result of untreated sewage releases from storm overflows. The Government’s proposals to address the practice were announced in March, with the consultation on the ‘Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan’ due to end on 12 May. Statistics released with the plan showed that 372,533 sewage discharges took place in 2021, polluting our waterways for 2,667,452 hours.

Environmental charities and campaigners have flagged concerns that the Reduction Plan, whilst well-intentioned, does not go far or fast enough. The plan would see only 38% of high priority overflows improved by 2030, with half of storm overflows still spilling untreated sewage in 2040. This pace of change is significantly out of step with public concern about the impact of sewage in waterways, with protests at the scale of the problem continuing to take place across country, and the scale of the problem - storm overflows are contributing to the failure of at least 12% of our rivers to achieve Good Ecological Health. Link is calling for stronger action, in the form of a target for water companies to ensure zero pollution incidents by 2030, backed up by a legally binding government targets for sewage and for the overall quality of our rivers. Members of the public can take action to call for stronger measures here.


Judicial Review & Courts Bill improved for nature


Link’s Legal Strategy Group welcomed an improvement to the Judicial Review and Courts Bill in April, following the Government acceptance of a crucial Lords amendment. Clause 1 of the Bill had included a presumption on judges to issue weaker “prospective” and “suspended” quashing orders when decisions are found to be unlawful, in place of standard quashing orders. Quashing orders as currently used completely overturn unlawful decisions, putting an immediate end to any environmentally damaging actions arising from the decision. The weaker remedies fail to do this, and the presumption risked Judicial Review cases brought by environmental organisations and campaigners being upheld but failing to prevent environmental damage.

Following campaigning by Link and a range of legal groups, the House of Lords voted to remove the presumption at the end of March. Following further pressure, the Government declined to resist the Lords amendment and the Judicial Review & Courts Bill received Royal Assent on 28 April, without the presumption. While efforts to completely remove weaker prospective and suspended quashing orders from the Bill were defeated, the removal of the presumption is expected to limit their use. Judicial Review is an important mechanism to protect the environment through and Link will continue to resist any further attempts to weaken it.


Bulletin Board

Link blogs you may have missed:

The Nature Recovery Green Paper: A missed opportunity for species recovery
Jim Foster, Conservation Director at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), and Nida Al-Fulaij, Conservation Research Manager at People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), outline what the Nature Recovery Green Paper is missing on species protection and conservation.

Our Big Plastic Count will create evidence the government cannot ignore, showing it's time to cut plastic production

Megan Randles, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, introduces The Big Plastic Count which is inviting households, schools, community groups and businesses across the UK to record their plastic packaging waste, generating evidence which can push big brands, supermarkets and the government to start addressing the global plastic waste crisis.

Celebrating National Parks – and ensuring they deliver more for people, nature and climate

Marking National Parks Fortnight, Laura Williams, Campaigns & Communications Manager at Campaign for National Parks, explains what action is needed to protect and improve National Parks and how everyone can help.

New podcast explore private finance opportunities for eNGOs

A new podcast, hosted by the Green Finance Institute, explores how eNGOs can use commercial finance in order to pay for conservation and nature restoration. The podcast sees Gwyn Williams shares the experience of RSPB in exploring private finance to deliver conservation aims. The episode can be be accessed here.

New biosecurity requirements announced for Government-backed tree planting

Defra has announced that from June 2022 applicants for funding under the England Woodland Creation Offer and the Future Farming Tree Health Pilot must commit to sourcing their trees from suppliers who are either accredited under the Plant Healthy Certification Scheme or who have passed a Ready to Plant assessment.

Sector job vacancies:

A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with RSPB and the Westcountry Rivers Trust.


Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 65 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. You can learn more about Link’s policy work here.


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