Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Plantlife

Plantlife is the organisation speaking up for the nation’s wild plants and fungi. We work hard to protect wild plants and fungi on the ground and to build understanding of the vital role they play in everyone’s lives.

Issues that the Committee may wish to include in terms of reference for a possible future Select Committee inquiry into detailed aspects of the White Paper are in italic text.

1. Plantlife Welcomes

1.1 Using the National Ecosystem Assessment as evidence for decision making. The NEA showed that plants and fungi are the fundamental building blocks of the natural environment.

1.2 The creation of Nature Improvement Areas. Government must ensure that meeting the needs of plants/fungi is the cornerstone of each NIA.

1.3 Commitments 22, 25, 35, 36, 61, 76.

2. Improvements Can be Made Through

2.1 Firmer commitments to protect rare and threatened wildlife. Section 2.9 includes several quantified aims which the England Biodiversity Strategy must further commit to and extend to vulnerable species. The EBS must also be cross-government/department policy, otherwise Government is unlikely to meet its international commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

2.2 Clearer demonstration of how departments other than Defra will be committed to delivering the NEWP, including accountability and review.

2.3 Clearer demonstration that planning reform and the Localism Bill will not compromise the NEWP’s ambitions and commitments. We are concerned that the Localism Bill in its current form (whereby “local financial considerations” can be a material factor in planning decisions) is not compatible with NEWP ambitions.

2.4 A commitment to improve the Biodiversity Duty on public bodies. Although the NEWP talks of providing new tools and guidance for public bodies, there is currently no commitment to do this.

2.5 A commitment to review the voluntary approach in biodiversity offsetting and consider regulation for developers. Also, recognition that the existence of an offsets scheme must not be abused as a “licence to trash”.

2.6 Clearer demonstration of how local action will integrate national/strategic biodiversity ambitions and a commitment to provide a national framework of information and advice to support Local Nature Partnerships.

3. Plantlife Believes these Omissions should be Rectified by Government

3.1 Failure to recognise the significance of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). An amended and updated GSPC was endorsed by Government at Nagoya (CBD COP10) in order to halt the continuing loss of plant diversity. Yet flowering plants and ferns are at the bottom of the Government’s league table for features in favourable condition on SSSIs and one in five wild flowers in Britain are threatened with extinction. Failure to embed the GSPC in the NEWP is a serious oversight.

3.2 Failure to set a compulsory deadline to halt the use of peat. It has already been shown that a voluntary approach to this issue does not provide the right incentive to achieve good results: the previous voluntary target set by Government on peat use reduction was missed.

3.3. Failure to commit to measures to help reduce/prevent damage to the environment from invasive non-native species. Three and a half years have passed since Government consulted on a ban on sale of the most invasive species, a method Plantlife believes is a prerequisite to protecting our environment from this major and unnecessary threat.

4. Plantlife also Supports the Wildlife and Countryside Link Response to the EFRA Committee.

20 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012