Defra opens up on 25-year plan for the environment

4th November 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Ecosystems


Sam Brewitt

Environment secretary Liz Truss says she wants to move away from the jumble of "contradictory targets and controls" governing the natural environment to a new approach that maintains improvement and which values nature systematically for all the benefits it provides.

Launching a 12-month project to develop a long-term plan of continuous environmental improvement, called "Open environment", Truss said it would include smarter regulation, involve voluntary organisations more and make better use of data and technology.

She said Defra bodies, such as the Environment Agency and Natural England, would in future work towards a shared purpose rather than follow separate or isolated strategies, with resources focused on frontline staff: "I think we're not yet getting the best out of [Defra] organisations.

"Currently, for example, each has its own HR department. I want to get to a position where we're concentrating resources on frontline experts, not on duplicating functions between different parts of Defra."

Truss championed the use of "citizen scientists", local volunteers trained to collect environmental data rather than leave it to professionals. Greater use of technology is also on the agenda, with Truss citing the use of DNA tests by Natural England to detect the presence of great-crested newts in water.

She promised that Defra's 8,000 datasets, including at least 2,000 on the natural environment, would be open to the public by next summer. "We want to equip people and businesses to exploit data in their decision-making and enable developers to design powerful new applications," she said.


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