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National Trust proposes environmental measures for UK investment zones

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The National Trust has voiced concerns over reformation plans for nature protection and the changes to planning regulations in selected regions. The National Trust has proposed a series of measures that it believes cannot be changed in the planned new investment zones.

In a recent statement, the National Trust shared its concerns over plans to transform critical natural protections, remove planning measures within the investment zones and restructure environmental farming subsidies. The proposed investment zones will be delivered via an application from local councils, eliminating restrictions and providing lower taxes and simple planning measures for specific areas.

Through these investment zones, the government stated that local regions pursue appropriate planning for the area while maintaining high environmental outcomes and ensuring national green belt protections are in place. The UK Government recently explained that local areas must adhere to policies to ensure complete mitigation of any potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed development. 

The National Trust, however, is concerned about the scale of measures implemented to protect and safeguard the wildlife, landscapes and buildings that matter to people. The organisation believes that the benefits related to planning and investment measures cannot come at a wholesale cost to the environment. The Trust believes new planning and investment should focus primarily on green jobs, sustainable food production, clean energy, nature protection and promoting outdoor spaces.

The Trust recommended the following measures for new investment zones in the UK:

  • The UK Government should focus on green development, prioritising 440,000 green jobs detailed in the net zero strategies.
  • Any alterations to current regulations must not impact existing protections for our environment and local heritage.
  • New investment zones must not create areas lacking natural or historic character where people do not influence the developments that impact them.
  • New farm payments must maintain the same commitment to incentivise farmers for public goods such as cultural heritage protections and cleaner rivers.
  • The Government should collaborate with the public and other environmental, farming and conservation groups that influence future decisions.
  • Any modifications to the Government must not significantly impact other proposed commitments, like protecting 30% of the UK land for nature by 2030.
  • The UK Government must stay committed to net zero obligations and the overall strategy.

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Nature at the National Trust, explains that is an illusion that we can’t grow the economy and protect the environment together. Bowell believes the economy and environment go hand in hand, highlighting that healthy soils and clean water represent sustainable food production, maintaining food reserves for today and the future. 

Bowell states that we cannot enable development at any cost. If we eliminate green spaces and allow restrictive-free planning in towns and cities without investing in nature, we are putting economies, communities and our well-being in crisis. People need green space, local heritage and character, and they must have a say in managing and shaping the places where they live. 

Bowell explains that protective measures often safeguard important areas get disregarded as red tape. But once we remove these natural landscapes, we cannot get them back.

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