Government unveils bill to remove hundreds of environmental laws

28th September 2022

A total of 570 British environmental laws are set to be rewritten or removed from the UK’s statute book under a government bill revoking EU legislation, sparking claims that ministers have launched an assault on nature.

A total of 570 British environmental laws are set to be rewritten or removed from the UK’s statute book under a government bill revoking EU legislation, sparking claims that ministers have launched an assault on nature.

The move comes as the government also overhauls planning laws to fast-track infrastructure schemes, reforms planning policy for onshore wind, and relaxes environmental requirements to boost development in up to 38 new investment zones in England. Ministers are considering scaling back environmental assessments, consultations and regulations on biodiversity.

In a separate move, the government is also considering scrapping the Environment Land Management Scheme, which would have paid farmers and landowners to enhance nature by creating rare habitats as well as cutting carbon. Instead, paying them an annual sum for each hectare of land they own is now on the table.

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill's environmental legislation covering habitat regulations, clean air, sewage pollution and water quality will be removed or rewritten.

“Retained EU law was never intended to sit on the statute book indefinitely,” Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg told Parliament. “The time is now right to bring the special status of retained EU law in the UK statute book to an end on 31 December 2023, in order to fully realise the opportunities of Brexit and to support the unique culture of innovation in the UK.”

Environmental groups have condemned the moves. The RSPB said the move towards investment zones was an “unprecedented attack on nature”, adding that the removal of EU environmental protections “potentially tears up the most fundamental legal protections our remaining wildlife has”.

Wildlife and Countryside Link chief executive Craig Bennett said this was “legislative vandalism”, while rewriting laws would mean an unacceptable delay to protection for the environment. The National Trust promised to work with other nature charities and supporters to “defend important protections for nature long into the future”.

Elsewhere, the government is reversing its 2015 ban on new onshore wind farms in England. Under the government’s growth plan, onshore wind projects may “benefit from acceleration through planning reform, regulatory reform, improved processes or other options to speed up their development and construction, including through development consent processes”.

The government has also launched a review of net-zero delivery by 2050 to ensure that delivery of legally-binding climate goals are pro-growth and pro-business while increasing energy security and affordability for consumers and business. Former energy minister Chris Skidmore will lead the review.

Image credit | Shutterstock


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