Risk of wildlife watchdog Natural England being dissolved

There are discussions about dissolving Natural England taking place in government, leaving many environmental campaigners concerned about how this could affect future policy.

According to a Guardian article, activists discovered a proposal buried in a recent government consultation for the integration of the advising body into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Experts worry this could mark the end of the conservation watchdog, originally set up in 2006, meaning there will be less scrutiny of policies regarding wildlife and nature.

forest trees


The body has already lost its independence under the Conservative government and is chronically underfunded after years of financial cuts.

Natural England is responsible for protecting important wildlife areas, paying farmers to protect wildlife and advising on planning applications.

The body also oversees the restoration of natural areas which can store carbon, such as peatlands, wetlands and woodlands.

It is led by Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Juniper, however, he has not criticised the proposed plans, and has instead suggested an overarching nature strategy for Defra.

Craig Bennett, the chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, told the Guardian the government was wasting time and money on this when it should be focused on delivering nature targets set out in the Environment Act.

A government spokesperson confirmed to Environment Journal that integrating Natural England with Defra was being considered by ministers, but no decision has been reached.

They said: ‘We have ambitious plans to deliver for nature, and our arm’s-length bodies [ALBs] have a key role to play in this.

‘It is right we ensure our ALB landscape supports this ambition, and there is a possibility that changes could be made to the current structure – however, no decisions have been made and, if and when a decision is made, it will expressly be with the aim of strengthening our ability to deliver for nature.’

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel


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Pete Rowberry
Pete Rowberry
2 years ago

Deregulation and the free market cannot protect endangered wildlife. An independent NGO, at arms length from DEFRA is essential.

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