Natural Environment White Paper reforms criticised

Recommendations from last year's Natural Environment White Paper under scrutiny by MPs.

The Natural Environment White Paper has "extremely vague" recommendations while a welter of working groups threatens to hinder rather than help implementation, MPs have warned.

Last week, the environment minister Richard Benyon and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs deputy director David Cooper, who oversaw the writing of the paper, were put before a Commons committee hearing.

Key measures in last year's white paper, the focus of the hearing, included 12 new nature improvement areas (NIAs) to boost biodiversity, local nature partnerships to encourage joined-up working and a green infrastructure partnership.

Committee chair Anne McIntosh said it was a very ambitious paper and some of the recommendations were "extremely vague". She questioned whether with all the task forces and working groups there was a "danger that nothing is actually done".

Benyon agreed it was ambitious and formed a framework of how the Government "envisages valuing and enhancing nature way into the future". But of the 92 specific recommendations, 10 were complete and almost all others were on their way.

He said: "We want change and great things. The last thing we want is talking shops for every group. Local nature partnerships, for example, will have an absolutely clear remit."

Conservative MP Neil Parish asked whether NIAs could create a two-tier system and "make life complicated". Cooper said NIAs had no statutory powers but were there to enhance what was already happening.

Key Stat

The total number of recommendations contained in the Natural Environment White Paper - 92 recommendations.

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