Environmental experts lament slow progress on white paper delivery

Funding problems and fragmented delivery have hampered the roll-out of the natural environment white paper six months after its launch, environment experts have told MPs.

The Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee heard that what started as a cross-department initiative had ended up with experts going back to their departments and sacrificing any chance of joined-up thinking.

"People have now gone back into their silos with their specific tasks," said Wildlife Trusts head of living landscapes Paul Wilkinson. "There is not really an integrated approach to delivery."

National Trust natural environment director Dr Simon Pryor used nature improvement areas to raise the issue of funding. The white paper laid out plans for 12 areas to "enhance and reconnect nature", run by councils, communities and businesses.

A small sum of £7.5m had been set aside for the areas, he told the committee. "It is probably the biggest number in the white paper in terms of its commitment. But when you divide it between the 12 partnerships, it works out at only £4 per hectare a year."

Wilkinson said there was a need for a funding timetable for the next 20 or 30 years and set the £7.5m against the £500m found to increase bin collections from fortnightly to weekly. A more thorough funding strategy was "absolutely critical", he added.

Country Land & Business Association president Harry Cotterell said: "Just meeting the Government's aspirations for environmental stewardship would require an extra £1.2bn a year a year. We are talking about astronomical figures."

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