Back to blog listings


DWT response to Government's 25-year plan for the environment

Posted: Thursday 11th January 2018 by HarryBarton

Dart Valley from the air (Photo: John Walters)Dart Valley from the air (Photo: John Walters)

After long delays the government's 25-year plan to improve the natural environment was launched today. Some of its content is welcome, but we will need an Environment Act to ensure aspirations are backed up by law.

The government’s long awaited 25 year plan to improve the environment has arrived. Entitled A Green Future, it is bold, wide ranging and long term in its thinking. Its scope is the land, the seas around us and the sky above us. It considers the UK, its overseas territories and the international community, and the subjects covered range from saving rare species to improving health and wellbeing. The very fact that the long-delayed plan has been produced at all is a considerable achievement, and should give us hope.

Much to be welcomed

There is much to be welcomed in the content of the plan too. It establishes or confirms some important principles, such as Environmental Net Gain in built development. There are some interesting ideas, such as the revolving land bank in rural areas. And the commitment to restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich landscape outside legally protected areas is one of a handful of hard targets that we can hold the government to.

Weaknesses in the plan

But the plan has its weaknesses. Some of the targets are very distant. Why do we need to wait until 2050 for an end to avoidable waste, or 2042 for avoidable plastics? We have ample evidence of the eye-watering scale of the problem now, and the damage that could occur in the coming three decades hardly bears thinking about. Some difficult decisions have been side-stepped with phrases such as “explore” or “consult on”.

More could have been said on the role of natural flood management: such a key issue in the South West and one where the region has played a leading role, including through Devon Wildlife Trust’s restoration of Culm grassland in north Devon. And there could have been more on the reintroduction of formerly native species such as the Eurasian beaver, building on the DWT-led River Otter Beaver Trial, in east Devon.

Our greatest concern

Of greatest concern is the little space given to explaining how these laudable ambitions will be delivered in practice, with few hard targets or policies set out in any detail. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts are calling for an Environment Act, to ensure that the aspirations in this plan are backed up by law. This is particularly important in the light of our departure from the European Union, as 70% of our existing environmental laws are tied up with the EU. An ambitious new Environment Act, coupled with some funding mechanisms to help delivery, really could position UK to be a leader in environmental protection. Without it, that seems a pretty unlikely prospect.

In its defence, the government could point to the commitment to consult on how the plan will be implemented over the coming year, the strong hint towards the creation of an independent body to hold the government to account, and the existence of metrics against which progress can be measured – sketchy though they are in the published plan. All these are welcome as far as they go, and should give us some cause for optimism that the government is simply wanting our input on the detail rather than avoiding the difficult decisions.

A huge step forward

We should be in no doubt, this is a huge step forward. But if we want the 25 year plan to improve the environment to be worthy of its title, all of us who care about the future of our natural environment need to play an active and constructive role in the consultations, let the government know that we are taking this seriously, and hold them to their promises.
  

Read HarryBarton's latest blog entries.

Comments

    We all need to do more as individuals,picking up litter, recycling as much as we can, buy fruit & veg unwrapped, if I buy from a supermarket I always choose unwrapped or don't buy it.We still have households who don't recycle just shove all their waste in black bags for the bin men. Jean Bradshaw

    Thursday 18th January 2018
    by

    I broadly agree with all the previous comments posted. A few people have mentioned overpopulation and house building as the 'elephants in the room' but what about the environmental impacts of producing meat? Maybe governments shouldn't be dictating what we eat but given that livestock contribute approx 14% of all green house gas emmissions, require a massive amount of land, not only for grazing but to produce the crops used as feed, I think it is an environmental issue that should be addressed? We could have less livestock but better 'quality' meat grown slowly on pasture that is rich in wildflowers, insects and all the other wildlife that would consequently benefit.People eating less meat, but paying more for it - reflecting the true costs for the farmer of producing good quality meat and also protecting the environment. Could go hand in hand with governments advice on healthy lifestyle/diets.

    Tuesday 16th January 2018
    by

    There are several positive aspects of the 25 Year Plan (particularly in Farming and the Environment) but the critical weakness is in the long-term policy on reducing the use of plastics. The domestic output is a major problem for recycling and pollution by discards. The action on carrier bags is insufficient and the food industry must be pressurised into reducing pre-packed fruit and vegetables, more use of paper bags and waxed cardboard trays for perishables (that can be incinerated). A simple illustration of the point is supermarkets selling the same sized broccoli in adjacent trays with one set wrapped in plastic film. There is currently much public awareness of the plastics problem that could be engaged to separate quality recyclable PTFEs that could be reprocessed in the UK. Accelerated research and development of biodegradable plastics is urgently needed that could be composted with other household waste. Also plastics that can be incinerated without problems of toxic emissions. Finally, black plastic and polystyrene should be phased out since they contaminate the waste stream and can not be recycled.

    Monday 15th January 2018
    by

    And there needs to be cross-party consensus on any new legislation for such a long term plan. How for instance will any future policy address the current cross-compliance measures required under the Basic Payment Scheme? The carrot or the stick?

    Monday 15th January 2018
    by

    This plan is welcome but does need an Environment Bill but that can't happen until we leave the EU. However, I urge you not to make to much of the long timescales because for a Government it is much better to have a long time scale for implementation and beat it and be associated with success than set a short timescale and fail to reach it again and again and always be associated with failure. Rather than the Devon Wildlife Trust waste its time complaining about the length of the time targets it should use all its energy to ensure that the changes are completed well within these timescales. Harry Gorst, Torquay

    Sunday 14th January 2018
    by

    The way I see it why we have to wait so long is MONEY, I can't see why it can't go through straight away, the only thing is as I said perhaps it is going to affect the governments finance, why else is it going to take so long.

    Sunday 14th January 2018
    by

    Hi Harry, Hurrah that the Environment suddenly pops up on the political agenda again after being buried for ever it seems. There is so much that non-govt. orgs have been doing behind the scenes plus great work in seats of learning and industry around the world. However all of the knowledge we have will only really change culture when our leaders acknowledge the scientific truths which are held in so many places. The need for what they might call red tape but which is actually the creation of laws which ensure that all of us know the boundaries within which we have to work is Government's role. Without legislation to ban carbon emissions for example the transport industry will not adapt as it must. It is better for all companies in an industry to have to comply with the same rules rather than allow an unregulated mess which then contributes to economic crises as we saw happen in the Finance Industry. We know that reserves in their own right are not a solution but connectedness of those reserves makes the difference. So it is with the Environment Act - it needs to cross cut everything. It needs to tie in with Agricultural Reforms, it needs to impact on all human behaviours. It cannot be successful in isolation. The atmosphere, the oceans, the land do not respect our boundary focused human world. So definitely congratulations to the Government for its new environmental stance and surprisingly to Michael Gove who I never imagined would actually do what he is doing environment wise. My sneaking suspicion is that the Govt is trying to win popularity when everything else is going down the tubes for it. However if the door is open a crack then we should push it hard and encourage its opening until Environmental Factors become as all pervasive in our society as Health and Safety at Work has become. Who would have thought how succussful that legislation would have been for people's health and welfare and how many lives have been saved. Its a start and lets hope it is a new beginning for a new culture where the Environment is at the heart of everything we do.

    Sunday 14th January 2018
    by

    While it's wonderful that the message is finally getting through to the government and they have put plans in place. It is NOT good enough to wait 25-45 years for action to take place. The crises is NOW

    Sunday 14th January 2018
    by

    While it's wonderful that the message is finally getting through to the government and they have put plans in place. It is NOT good enough to wait 25-45 years for action to take place. The crises is NOW

    Sunday 14th January 2018
    by

    Caroline Lucas writing in the Independent on Friday 12 Jan. "Highly significant but utterly underwhelming" A party political statement at younger voters?

    Sunday 14th January 2018
    by

    I agree that an Environment Act would be the sensible way forward, so as to hold subsequent administrations to account. I also agree that some of these longer targets are unrealistic, in terms of limiting environmental damage and the need to address the decline of very important species. The drastic (75%) decline in flying invertebrates over the last 30 years is one such example. This is a mostly "hidden" catastrophe that is happening right under our noses and little attention is being paid to it. Action on research to pin down what has caused this, is urgent.

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    Hello Harry Yes I agree any government that can attempt to set out vision for improvement over this sort of timescale and scope should be commended, especially when it’s concerns our environment. I agree it is only when some of these ideas are made concrete, ideally backed with cross-party support rather than battled through legislation, AND the organisational capability to bring them to life that they will start to benefit everyone. No Government can hope to achieve this aspiration without engaging organisations like DWT both locally and nationally and giving these teams the tools and funding to make things happen far more quickly than 25 years. It’s the follow through to these sorts or headline grabbing announcements that is always more important while the political spotlight moves on.

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    I think there is huge public support for the elimination of avoidable plastic and a focus on this element of the policy might have more impact than anything else.

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    As a volunteer with Devon Biodiversity Records Centre for nearly 15 years, during which time I have taken academic qualifications in Biological Recording, I am concerned about the withdrawal (or at least weakening) of the statutory bodies' support for biological recording. If we are to have targets for improvement in biodiversity, we must have the evidence to show that the improvements have taken place. The already existing network of Local Environmental Record Centres, in partnership with the recording societies, seems to me the best way to collect and deliver this evidence, rather than relying on citizen science and smartphone apps, and hoping that data will, in some magical way, accumulate in the NBN Atlas (although, of course there is a place for these things). Jeremy Ison

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    Plastic pollution needs tackling NOW, not over 25 years. Plastic production should be banned,it is difficult to buy anything in the supermarkets that is not wrapped in plastic and many people seem not to be aware of the terrible threat to wildlife it is causing.

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    I agree with Harry Barton's views on the governments 25 year plan for conservation and reduction in the use of plastics. There is no need to wait for 25 years to fully implement the plan; one only has to look at what is being done in Europe. Last summer I was impressed that a well known supermarket in France was using biodegradable and compostable bags on its fruit and vegetable stalls instead of the single use plastic bags we use here. Additionally there was little prepacked produce on these stalls. The government and our supermarkets should take note. If France can do it why cant we?

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    PS Could you please add this to my earlier response. As the government is, no doubt, exercised by a mixture of genuine environmental concern and the desire to maximise electoral advantage, the more the wider public is engaged in making representations to their MPs, the greater the likelihood that the government will address the full range of issues, including climate change, with the rigour that is needed. Alan Ramage

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    I agree, 25 years is far too long, they've known about these issues for years why not start NOW! The government must have enough employees and consultants who can sort these big problems now so why wait. It's about time caring for our environment and the countryside, and our planet, is top of their list, as at this rate people will not have a planet to live on and humans will kill the Earth, along with our beautiful plants, animals, fish and wildlife. Laws can be enforced on companies, councils and industries to reduce, recycle, replace and re-use plastics and other toxics. Help more companies to set up recycling centres so nothing goes to landfill. Manufacturers MUST make new items out of biodegradable substances, which are already available. Ban plastic everywhere. But most importantly people's attitudes need to change, no more "it's not my problem, let someone else sort it". Ignorance, laziness and non-caring attitude of people is mainly to blame! I live by the sea and every day I pick up rubbish, plastic, fishing nets off the beach, I wish everyone did the same around the world.

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    While agreeing with the idea that this is better than nothing, I think the elephant in the room is housebuilding. Devon is seeing an enormous boom in housebuilding - mostly on green field sites, and once these are gone they aren't coming back. (One example is the proposed enormous estate on the outskirts of Exeter/Exminster). The government is saying how green it wants to be on the one hand and on the other it pushes housebuilding everywhere whether the residents want it or not. An example of how wildlife loses out to building is the recent court case at Chudleigh when DWT tried to stop building next to the greater horseshoe bat colony and surprise surprise, the houses won. For myself I feel that on some issues such as beavers on the Otter we are winning for wildlife to have space to exist, but on the other I feel increasingly pessimistic unfortunately.

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    Given the many voices within the Conservative Party, some of whom who will push for voluntary rather than legislated action because of their business sector lobbyists, the government's proposals should be viewed as no more than a declaration of intent, which require committed, well informed and, where possible, united lobbying by conservation NGOs to rectify omissions from the plan and help drive the momentum for an Environment Law. The challenge is two-way. NGOs need to show that they can reach out beyond their memberships to the wider public so that they become involved in the debate on how to make the aspirations of the plan an effective reality. Alan Ramage

    Saturday 13th January 2018
    by

    Dear Harry Barton,After reading your blog, I would like to tell you about my correspondence with the Department for the Environment and Ben Bradshaw. I originally wrote regarding the demise of our bees and received replies, although to be honest Michael Goves' reply was very lame, so I asked Mr.Bradshaw to help to keep up the pressure and I signed all online petitions regarding the bees. I believe progress was made with the banning of certain sprays. The plastics nightmare has been ignored for far too long,labelling people who tried to bring our attention to it as hippies and do gooders.I once again wrote to the Department for the Environment at the end of November and received a non-committal reply. After contacting Mr.Bradshaw, who wrote to Mr.Gove on my behalf, the reply was more detailed.However,Mr.Gove and his Department are very pleased with themselves at having cut their in house usage by fifty percent,wait for it, since 2013!!! I don't believe that they actually understand the concept of time. I admit to mentioning in my correspondence that as we the taxpayer paid their wages, they should be ashamed of misusing our money and should all use travel cups to buy their coffee. Since the recent publicity and photos we have the government trying to make the right noises although I believe these statements have fired up the public who feel badly let down. I think if we all keep up the pressure by publicity and correspondence, we can bring about changes which must surely benefit everyone. We must also make it clear that we want action, not posturing empty statements. We are lucky with our recycling program in Exeter and also to have Mr. Bradshaw to help us fight the red tape. People have more power than they think and approached in the right way I believe that the consumers will try their best to help. Yours faithfully, Mrs. Tina Gibbings.

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Twenty-five years will see most of us dead and does not take the threats seriously. Get a wild life expert to advise what should be done during the life of this government and we will know how to vote at the next election. Dr C D Rhodes

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Whilst agreeing with Harrys comments, I would like to add a few observations. I have lived and worked in Scandinavia for the last 13 years and moved back to Devon recently. The government needs to get people involved in the disposal of rubbish. The only way to do this is to make recycling worth money. All bottles in Scandinavia, plastic and glass have an extra cost on them when you buy them, about 10 pence per bottle. When you have finished the contents you take it back to any supermarket ane recycle them in a machine the supermarket provides. When you have finished feeding all your bottles in you get a receipt for the amount of tax you paid in the beginning and you can spend this in the Supermarket, simple, you never see any bottles thrown away in Sweden! If you recycle all you rubbish at home for collection you get a good discount on your council charges. Plastic bags are expensive in the shops, but paper bags a free. The government should act now and not worry about what there industry friends think, they will follow the trend. I own a cafe and coffee shop and the first thing I did was to get rid of all the plastic and non recyclable packaging. I had to put the prices up because all compostable products are three times more expensive that the plastic alternatives. All my customers have followed me in recognizing that everyone has to start now and if all the small and large shops, especially the large coffee chains start using compostable packaging, especially the coffee cups and sip lids, the prices will come down. If we can do it, the government can easily achieve this within the next couple of years. We need to start buying our fruit and vegetables unwrapped and taking them away loose in paper bags. There is no need for plastic packaging, so lets make the change with our feet and only shop where paper compostable packaging is offered, James Forsyth.

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    I agree with Harry's comments - this is a big step forward from a Government we feared had too many other things on its agenda. However, the timescales are long and details and funding proposals are in short supply giving lots of room for back-sliding. A good start for a post-Brexit nation but future proposals and announcements will need close scrutiny.

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Perhaps we need to get a National Petition going, to push for an Act? In fact for me, there is no Perhaps! Roger Williams.

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    There was little in the way of a real plan. Sounded good, but it was mostly spin and many people will be taken in by that. We need changes made in the next 25mths, not 25yrs. If the government really cares about the environment, they will bring an end to fracking now, stop Hinckley Point, cancel HS2 and not renew Trident. Mrs May would also sack more cabinet members, whose views do not accord with posts they have been given. Yes it is good they are making noises about the environment at last, but that is all they are doing at the moment. Sorry, I always speak my mind and do not have the constraints a CEO has to not upset people!

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Such long term policy only emphasises the Government's inability & unwillingness to grasp the shocking effects of rubbish plastic on the environment.

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    It seems that governments and international bodies begin to respond to environmental issues 50 years or more after the need for urgent action is obvious to many of us. So it was with climate change and so it is with this (welcome) initiative. How much longer before we get to hear of any action on the real elephant in the room - overpopulation?

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    It has to be asked why are any organisations even bothering to read this garbage, The 25 year number seems to be the latest trend for a clearly failing administration desperate to grab vote from those who fall for this empty wording. It is time the wildlife trusts showed their teeth and made a stance with a clear universally adopted agenda for the next 5 years, not asking for comments on a distant future. Stop asking us what we think about what TM has to say she has absolutely no interest or understanding of the environment. Publish with the other major environmental players a plan for the future that actually shows what and how and more importantly by whom. I have been a member of DWT for 6 years and sorry guys but you simply are not pulling your weight. With brexit looming there should be a very clear and concise document on the PM's desk by now, it is time you collectively told them what is needed not just sat back and waited for yet another promise of mist. I am sick of voting on petitions and trying to raise awareness on social media, the awareness is now there. What is missing is a single document that has teeth that we can all get behind generated by those who we finance via our membership fees. DWT is in my eyes being far too quiet, Blue planet 2 has opened the door and social media is buzzing with angry environmentalists, papers are headlining the marine issue the government is on the run and desperate to be told what to do, there has never been a better opportunity to together steer them as they are very much in the public eye at the moment and dare not be seen to not be in tune.

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Who are the best people in Devon to let know that I'm with you on holding their promises?

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Great article, Harry! We all have seen what this government is doing and that their promises are hardly ever kept. So we have to keep on fighting for our environment, we can't rely on anything these politicians are saying. It is up to every one of us individually to not just remind the government about the importance of nature but also to help in person, if it is a membership with one of the wildlife charities or even volunteering with one, or doing little things at home, like litter picking, creating wildlife habitats in their gardens, avoiding plastic or educating themselves and others. Thank you for giving our wildlife a voice! Sylvie

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    MY concern about the government's plan is that it shows no urgency to the problem of plastic waste. We know how successful it was when the government legislated on a small charge for plastic bags. So why is there no mention of legislation to encourage us all-but especially the supermarkets to move away from single use plastics and other packaging that is simply tossed in the bin and ends up in landfills or in oceans or discarded on beaches and the countryside. This waste is slowly poisoning the Earths underground and overground water channels, the soil, the air, plants and animals and us too. The supermarkets do not seem inclined to change their habits so it seems to me we need to be pushing for legislation to encourage us all to use paper bags or packaging which is sustainable and biodegradable. These materials are already being produced and are readily available so why aren't they being used on a large scale ? Brian Rowe

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    I agree plans too distant need to act now. 25 year plan too late! Why can they not put a five year plan forward?

    Friday 12th January 2018
    by

    Of course this is a step forward, but surely one way to reduce the plastic in our seas is to get businesses to stop providing plastic bags for us to buy! Why can't businesses use paper bags instead?

    Thursday 11th January 2018
    by

Post a comment

We all need to do more as individuals,picking up litter, recycling as much as we can, buy fruit & veg unwrapped, if I buy from a supermarket I always choose unwrapped or don't buy it.We still have households who don't recycle just shove all their waste in black bags for the bin men. Jean Bradshaw

Thursday 18th January 2018
by

I broadly agree with all the previous comments posted. A few people have mentioned overpopulation and house building as the 'elephants in the room' but what about the environmental impacts of producing meat? Maybe governments shouldn't be dictating what we eat but given that livestock contribute approx 14% of all green house gas emmissions, require a massive amount of land, not only for grazing but to produce the crops used as feed, I think it is an environmental issue that should be addressed? We could have less livestock but better 'quality' meat grown slowly on pasture that is rich in wildflowers, insects and all the other wildlife that would consequently benefit.People eating less meat, but paying more for it - reflecting the true costs for the farmer of producing good quality meat and also protecting the environment. Could go hand in hand with governments advice on healthy lifestyle/diets.

Tuesday 16th January 2018
by

There are several positive aspects of the 25 Year Plan (particularly in Farming and the Environment) but the critical weakness is in the long-term policy on reducing the use of plastics. The domestic output is a major problem for recycling and pollution by discards. The action on carrier bags is insufficient and the food industry must be pressurised into reducing pre-packed fruit and vegetables, more use of paper bags and waxed cardboard trays for perishables (that can be incinerated). A simple illustration of the point is supermarkets selling the same sized broccoli in adjacent trays with one set wrapped in plastic film. There is currently much public awareness of the plastics problem that could be engaged to separate quality recyclable PTFEs that could be reprocessed in the UK. Accelerated research and development of biodegradable plastics is urgently needed that could be composted with other household waste. Also plastics that can be incinerated without problems of toxic emissions. Finally, black plastic and polystyrene should be phased out since they contaminate the waste stream and can not be recycled.

Monday 15th January 2018
by

And there needs to be cross-party consensus on any new legislation for such a long term plan. How for instance will any future policy address the current cross-compliance measures required under the Basic Payment Scheme? The carrot or the stick?

Monday 15th January 2018
by

This plan is welcome but does need an Environment Bill but that can't happen until we leave the EU. However, I urge you not to make to much of the long timescales because for a Government it is much better to have a long time scale for implementation and beat it and be associated with success than set a short timescale and fail to reach it again and again and always be associated with failure. Rather than the Devon Wildlife Trust waste its time complaining about the length of the time targets it should use all its energy to ensure that the changes are completed well within these timescales. Harry Gorst, Torquay

Sunday 14th January 2018
by

The way I see it why we have to wait so long is MONEY, I can't see why it can't go through straight away, the only thing is as I said perhaps it is going to affect the governments finance, why else is it going to take so long.

Sunday 14th January 2018
by

Hi Harry, Hurrah that the Environment suddenly pops up on the political agenda again after being buried for ever it seems. There is so much that non-govt. orgs have been doing behind the scenes plus great work in seats of learning and industry around the world. However all of the knowledge we have will only really change culture when our leaders acknowledge the scientific truths which are held in so many places. The need for what they might call red tape but which is actually the creation of laws which ensure that all of us know the boundaries within which we have to work is Government's role. Without legislation to ban carbon emissions for example the transport industry will not adapt as it must. It is better for all companies in an industry to have to comply with the same rules rather than allow an unregulated mess which then contributes to economic crises as we saw happen in the Finance Industry. We know that reserves in their own right are not a solution but connectedness of those reserves makes the difference. So it is with the Environment Act - it needs to cross cut everything. It needs to tie in with Agricultural Reforms, it needs to impact on all human behaviours. It cannot be successful in isolation. The atmosphere, the oceans, the land do not respect our boundary focused human world. So definitely congratulations to the Government for its new environmental stance and surprisingly to Michael Gove who I never imagined would actually do what he is doing environment wise. My sneaking suspicion is that the Govt is trying to win popularity when everything else is going down the tubes for it. However if the door is open a crack then we should push it hard and encourage its opening until Environmental Factors become as all pervasive in our society as Health and Safety at Work has become. Who would have thought how succussful that legislation would have been for people's health and welfare and how many lives have been saved. Its a start and lets hope it is a new beginning for a new culture where the Environment is at the heart of everything we do.

Sunday 14th January 2018
by

While it's wonderful that the message is finally getting through to the government and they have put plans in place. It is NOT good enough to wait 25-45 years for action to take place. The crises is NOW

Sunday 14th January 2018
by

While it's wonderful that the message is finally getting through to the government and they have put plans in place. It is NOT good enough to wait 25-45 years for action to take place. The crises is NOW

Sunday 14th January 2018
by

Caroline Lucas writing in the Independent on Friday 12 Jan. "Highly significant but utterly underwhelming" A party political statement at younger voters?

Sunday 14th January 2018
by

I agree that an Environment Act would be the sensible way forward, so as to hold subsequent administrations to account. I also agree that some of these longer targets are unrealistic, in terms of limiting environmental damage and the need to address the decline of very important species. The drastic (75%) decline in flying invertebrates over the last 30 years is one such example. This is a mostly "hidden" catastrophe that is happening right under our noses and little attention is being paid to it. Action on research to pin down what has caused this, is urgent.

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

Hello Harry Yes I agree any government that can attempt to set out vision for improvement over this sort of timescale and scope should be commended, especially when it’s concerns our environment. I agree it is only when some of these ideas are made concrete, ideally backed with cross-party support rather than battled through legislation, AND the organisational capability to bring them to life that they will start to benefit everyone. No Government can hope to achieve this aspiration without engaging organisations like DWT both locally and nationally and giving these teams the tools and funding to make things happen far more quickly than 25 years. It’s the follow through to these sorts or headline grabbing announcements that is always more important while the political spotlight moves on.

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

I think there is huge public support for the elimination of avoidable plastic and a focus on this element of the policy might have more impact than anything else.

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

As a volunteer with Devon Biodiversity Records Centre for nearly 15 years, during which time I have taken academic qualifications in Biological Recording, I am concerned about the withdrawal (or at least weakening) of the statutory bodies' support for biological recording. If we are to have targets for improvement in biodiversity, we must have the evidence to show that the improvements have taken place. The already existing network of Local Environmental Record Centres, in partnership with the recording societies, seems to me the best way to collect and deliver this evidence, rather than relying on citizen science and smartphone apps, and hoping that data will, in some magical way, accumulate in the NBN Atlas (although, of course there is a place for these things). Jeremy Ison

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

Plastic pollution needs tackling NOW, not over 25 years. Plastic production should be banned,it is difficult to buy anything in the supermarkets that is not wrapped in plastic and many people seem not to be aware of the terrible threat to wildlife it is causing.

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

I agree with Harry Barton's views on the governments 25 year plan for conservation and reduction in the use of plastics. There is no need to wait for 25 years to fully implement the plan; one only has to look at what is being done in Europe. Last summer I was impressed that a well known supermarket in France was using biodegradable and compostable bags on its fruit and vegetable stalls instead of the single use plastic bags we use here. Additionally there was little prepacked produce on these stalls. The government and our supermarkets should take note. If France can do it why cant we?

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

PS Could you please add this to my earlier response. As the government is, no doubt, exercised by a mixture of genuine environmental concern and the desire to maximise electoral advantage, the more the wider public is engaged in making representations to their MPs, the greater the likelihood that the government will address the full range of issues, including climate change, with the rigour that is needed. Alan Ramage

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

I agree, 25 years is far too long, they've known about these issues for years why not start NOW! The government must have enough employees and consultants who can sort these big problems now so why wait. It's about time caring for our environment and the countryside, and our planet, is top of their list, as at this rate people will not have a planet to live on and humans will kill the Earth, along with our beautiful plants, animals, fish and wildlife. Laws can be enforced on companies, councils and industries to reduce, recycle, replace and re-use plastics and other toxics. Help more companies to set up recycling centres so nothing goes to landfill. Manufacturers MUST make new items out of biodegradable substances, which are already available. Ban plastic everywhere. But most importantly people's attitudes need to change, no more "it's not my problem, let someone else sort it". Ignorance, laziness and non-caring attitude of people is mainly to blame! I live by the sea and every day I pick up rubbish, plastic, fishing nets off the beach, I wish everyone did the same around the world.

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

While agreeing with the idea that this is better than nothing, I think the elephant in the room is housebuilding. Devon is seeing an enormous boom in housebuilding - mostly on green field sites, and once these are gone they aren't coming back. (One example is the proposed enormous estate on the outskirts of Exeter/Exminster). The government is saying how green it wants to be on the one hand and on the other it pushes housebuilding everywhere whether the residents want it or not. An example of how wildlife loses out to building is the recent court case at Chudleigh when DWT tried to stop building next to the greater horseshoe bat colony and surprise surprise, the houses won. For myself I feel that on some issues such as beavers on the Otter we are winning for wildlife to have space to exist, but on the other I feel increasingly pessimistic unfortunately.

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

Given the many voices within the Conservative Party, some of whom who will push for voluntary rather than legislated action because of their business sector lobbyists, the government's proposals should be viewed as no more than a declaration of intent, which require committed, well informed and, where possible, united lobbying by conservation NGOs to rectify omissions from the plan and help drive the momentum for an Environment Law. The challenge is two-way. NGOs need to show that they can reach out beyond their memberships to the wider public so that they become involved in the debate on how to make the aspirations of the plan an effective reality. Alan Ramage

Saturday 13th January 2018
by

Dear Harry Barton,After reading your blog, I would like to tell you about my correspondence with the Department for the Environment and Ben Bradshaw. I originally wrote regarding the demise of our bees and received replies, although to be honest Michael Goves' reply was very lame, so I asked Mr.Bradshaw to help to keep up the pressure and I signed all online petitions regarding the bees. I believe progress was made with the banning of certain sprays. The plastics nightmare has been ignored for far too long,labelling people who tried to bring our attention to it as hippies and do gooders.I once again wrote to the Department for the Environment at the end of November and received a non-committal reply. After contacting Mr.Bradshaw, who wrote to Mr.Gove on my behalf, the reply was more detailed.However,Mr.Gove and his Department are very pleased with themselves at having cut their in house usage by fifty percent,wait for it, since 2013!!! I don't believe that they actually understand the concept of time. I admit to mentioning in my correspondence that as we the taxpayer paid their wages, they should be ashamed of misusing our money and should all use travel cups to buy their coffee. Since the recent publicity and photos we have the government trying to make the right noises although I believe these statements have fired up the public who feel badly let down. I think if we all keep up the pressure by publicity and correspondence, we can bring about changes which must surely benefit everyone. We must also make it clear that we want action, not posturing empty statements. We are lucky with our recycling program in Exeter and also to have Mr. Bradshaw to help us fight the red tape. People have more power than they think and approached in the right way I believe that the consumers will try their best to help. Yours faithfully, Mrs. Tina Gibbings.

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Twenty-five years will see most of us dead and does not take the threats seriously. Get a wild life expert to advise what should be done during the life of this government and we will know how to vote at the next election. Dr C D Rhodes

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Whilst agreeing with Harrys comments, I would like to add a few observations. I have lived and worked in Scandinavia for the last 13 years and moved back to Devon recently. The government needs to get people involved in the disposal of rubbish. The only way to do this is to make recycling worth money. All bottles in Scandinavia, plastic and glass have an extra cost on them when you buy them, about 10 pence per bottle. When you have finished the contents you take it back to any supermarket ane recycle them in a machine the supermarket provides. When you have finished feeding all your bottles in you get a receipt for the amount of tax you paid in the beginning and you can spend this in the Supermarket, simple, you never see any bottles thrown away in Sweden! If you recycle all you rubbish at home for collection you get a good discount on your council charges. Plastic bags are expensive in the shops, but paper bags a free. The government should act now and not worry about what there industry friends think, they will follow the trend. I own a cafe and coffee shop and the first thing I did was to get rid of all the plastic and non recyclable packaging. I had to put the prices up because all compostable products are three times more expensive that the plastic alternatives. All my customers have followed me in recognizing that everyone has to start now and if all the small and large shops, especially the large coffee chains start using compostable packaging, especially the coffee cups and sip lids, the prices will come down. If we can do it, the government can easily achieve this within the next couple of years. We need to start buying our fruit and vegetables unwrapped and taking them away loose in paper bags. There is no need for plastic packaging, so lets make the change with our feet and only shop where paper compostable packaging is offered, James Forsyth.

Friday 12th January 2018
by

I agree with Harry's comments - this is a big step forward from a Government we feared had too many other things on its agenda. However, the timescales are long and details and funding proposals are in short supply giving lots of room for back-sliding. A good start for a post-Brexit nation but future proposals and announcements will need close scrutiny.

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Perhaps we need to get a National Petition going, to push for an Act? In fact for me, there is no Perhaps! Roger Williams.

Friday 12th January 2018
by

There was little in the way of a real plan. Sounded good, but it was mostly spin and many people will be taken in by that. We need changes made in the next 25mths, not 25yrs. If the government really cares about the environment, they will bring an end to fracking now, stop Hinckley Point, cancel HS2 and not renew Trident. Mrs May would also sack more cabinet members, whose views do not accord with posts they have been given. Yes it is good they are making noises about the environment at last, but that is all they are doing at the moment. Sorry, I always speak my mind and do not have the constraints a CEO has to not upset people!

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Such long term policy only emphasises the Government's inability & unwillingness to grasp the shocking effects of rubbish plastic on the environment.

Friday 12th January 2018
by

It seems that governments and international bodies begin to respond to environmental issues 50 years or more after the need for urgent action is obvious to many of us. So it was with climate change and so it is with this (welcome) initiative. How much longer before we get to hear of any action on the real elephant in the room - overpopulation?

Friday 12th January 2018
by

It has to be asked why are any organisations even bothering to read this garbage, The 25 year number seems to be the latest trend for a clearly failing administration desperate to grab vote from those who fall for this empty wording. It is time the wildlife trusts showed their teeth and made a stance with a clear universally adopted agenda for the next 5 years, not asking for comments on a distant future. Stop asking us what we think about what TM has to say she has absolutely no interest or understanding of the environment. Publish with the other major environmental players a plan for the future that actually shows what and how and more importantly by whom. I have been a member of DWT for 6 years and sorry guys but you simply are not pulling your weight. With brexit looming there should be a very clear and concise document on the PM's desk by now, it is time you collectively told them what is needed not just sat back and waited for yet another promise of mist. I am sick of voting on petitions and trying to raise awareness on social media, the awareness is now there. What is missing is a single document that has teeth that we can all get behind generated by those who we finance via our membership fees. DWT is in my eyes being far too quiet, Blue planet 2 has opened the door and social media is buzzing with angry environmentalists, papers are headlining the marine issue the government is on the run and desperate to be told what to do, there has never been a better opportunity to together steer them as they are very much in the public eye at the moment and dare not be seen to not be in tune.

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Who are the best people in Devon to let know that I'm with you on holding their promises?

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Great article, Harry! We all have seen what this government is doing and that their promises are hardly ever kept. So we have to keep on fighting for our environment, we can't rely on anything these politicians are saying. It is up to every one of us individually to not just remind the government about the importance of nature but also to help in person, if it is a membership with one of the wildlife charities or even volunteering with one, or doing little things at home, like litter picking, creating wildlife habitats in their gardens, avoiding plastic or educating themselves and others. Thank you for giving our wildlife a voice! Sylvie

Friday 12th January 2018
by

MY concern about the government's plan is that it shows no urgency to the problem of plastic waste. We know how successful it was when the government legislated on a small charge for plastic bags. So why is there no mention of legislation to encourage us all-but especially the supermarkets to move away from single use plastics and other packaging that is simply tossed in the bin and ends up in landfills or in oceans or discarded on beaches and the countryside. This waste is slowly poisoning the Earths underground and overground water channels, the soil, the air, plants and animals and us too. The supermarkets do not seem inclined to change their habits so it seems to me we need to be pushing for legislation to encourage us all to use paper bags or packaging which is sustainable and biodegradable. These materials are already being produced and are readily available so why aren't they being used on a large scale ? Brian Rowe

Friday 12th January 2018
by

I agree plans too distant need to act now. 25 year plan too late! Why can they not put a five year plan forward?

Friday 12th January 2018
by

Of course this is a step forward, but surely one way to reduce the plastic in our seas is to get businesses to stop providing plastic bags for us to buy! Why can't businesses use paper bags instead?

Thursday 11th January 2018
by