• Climate Check

    In the excitement of the planning reform debate I forgot to profile a significant new report on the UK Govenment's climate change commitments - Climate Check.  This is one half of our assessment of whether the government is living up to the Prime Minister's ambition, stated on 14 May 2010, to be the "greenest government ever".  The second assessment - Nature Check - will be published shortly.

    Climate Check…

    • 30 Sep 2011
  • Learning to live with our own species

    Some things are easier said than done. 

    I was struck by Ed Miliband's new soundbite "something for something".  The idea that if you are given something then you should be expected to offer something in return.   We've had our own soundbite which has informed our approach to many policy debates: public money for public goods.  This is central to our arguments for reform of the Common Agriculture Policy. 

    • 29 Sep 2011
  • In praise of the family

    If you spend time thinking about family, you unleash a Pandora’s box of emotions: blood is thicker than water, sibling rivalry, remember to celebrate the success of others, don’t live your life through your children - nurture them and let them go etc. 

    The RSPB is part of a wider family – it’s called the Birdlife International partnership.  At a RSPB Council meeting yesterday, BirdLife’s Chief…

    • 28 Sep 2011
  • These boots were made for wanging...

    I don't get to wear my wellies as much as I'd like, but when I do, you'll be pleased to know that I've not opted for polka dots or stripes. Instead, my trusty green, comfortable pair come with me when I get out and about to the RSPB's nature reserves, and they are as stylish as needs be!

    Wellington boots used to last a lifetime. But thanks to the likes of Kate Moss and her festival pals wearing them…

    • 27 Sep 2011
  • A musing on the nature of opposition

    I remember a meeting in early 1997 when Michael Meacher (the then shadow Environment Secretary) summed up the trials of opposition. He said, “For eighteen years, I have woken up and thought what am I going to say today. I look forward to waking up and thinking what am I going to do today.”

    This week, in Liverpool, the Labour party will be doing a lot of talking. Talking about what they would do if they were…

    • 26 Sep 2011
  • It's not so grim up north.

    Whether it’s varieties of ale, dialect, football chants, scenery or soap opera, there have always been many differences separating southern and northern England.

    Now it seems there is another: birds.

    The RSPB, in conjunction with the BTO, has revealed a startling fact: bird populations in the south of England are faring less well than they are in the north. 

    Take the linnet, for example, why should the numbers…

    • 23 Sep 2011
  • Are we happy yet?

    It is a strange and surprising day when the Prime Minister decides to say something about our land use planning system.

    But Mr Cameron's intervention yesterday was welcome. None of us (including the National Trust) is interested in a game of brinkmanship. We want to find a way through this mess and we now have the opportunity to do just that.

    So, we have offered the Government the terms of negotiation and talks…

    • 22 Sep 2011
  • Conkers and bottle tops - a postscript

    I received this lovely response to yesterday's blog...

    "I thought you might like to know that blue tits don't have the memory of an elephant, in fact they seem rather forgetful. We still have milk delivered in bottles with bottle tops, but the blue tits have forgotten how to steal the milk. For nearly 30 years there hasn't been a gap in deliveries and the milk is proper, fresh from the farm with a thick layer of…

    • 21 Sep 2011
  • Conkers and bottle tops

    If you're of a certain vintage - probably over the age of around 35 - you'll remember the dawn raids. No, I'm not talking about wartime air assaults or a policeman breaking down your front door. I'm talking about a much smaller, much quieter invader.

    You can probably remember opening your front door to collect the milk bottles from your doorstep (yes, kids, milk used to arrive in something called a "…

    • 20 Sep 2011
  • In the eye of a storm

    We had a feisty fringe last night at the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham.  This was unsurprising as we were debating the planning reforms.  Planning has been front page news for weeks and it was a good opportunity to find out how the Liberal Democrats were feeling about the controversial proposals.

    I shared a panel with three others including Andrew Stunnell, a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local…

    • 19 Sep 2011
  • Who deserves a pat on the back?

    Am travelling to Brimingham for the Liberal Democrat conference.  I am looking forward to it!  Party conference season always offers a few surprises and I am sure this year will be no exception.  Tonight, I am speaking on a panel about the planning reforms.  I am looking for support for the NGO campaign to remove the economic bias which threatens to undermine existing wildlife protection.  Given that the Liberal Democrats…

    • 18 Sep 2011
  • Thinking Big

    In his report, Making Space for Nature, John Lawton clearly set out what wildlife needed: conservation action at a landscape scale.

    This week I have been lucky enough to partially escape the planning reform furore and visit two RSPB projects which are restoring habitats at a vast scale. In hurricane winds (I exagerate a little), I saw the extent of the habitat restoration that we had been carrying out at our Dove S…

    • 16 Sep 2011
  • Learning from experience?

    Another day and another lesson from a colleague in the environment movement.  This time from Peter Marren - a respected writer, wonderful naturalist and someone who I admire a great deal.

    Peter wrote a piece in the Independent yesterday arguing that wildlife needs a louder voice.

    I agree.

    He is right to highlight wildlife decline as an overlooked environmental issue – and he is partly right in the directions he points…

    • 15 Sep 2011
  • Good or bad compromise?

    Forgive me if I indulge myself by starting this post with a quote from Barack Obama: "A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, 'Huh. It works. It makes sense.'" True enough. But President Obama has doubtless learned, during his time in office, that it is exceptionally difficult to achieve this perfect compromise in practice…

    • 14 Sep 2011
  • RSPB gems

    There is one lucky chap, Gary Prescott, who has vistied all RSPB nature reserves... by bike!  I've met him and he is great.  And I have to say that I am a bit jealous.  There are loads of sites which, despite more than 7 years working for and 20 years a member of the RSPB, I have yet to have the pleasure of visiting.  Today I am off to visit our Northern England team to see one of our newest sites - Dove Stone.  I am looking…

    • 12 Sep 2011
  • Progress?

    Here's what happened yesterday at the NGO meeting with Planning Minister Greg Clark. We will obviously continue to work with Government to find a way through this, but the ball is probably back in the Government's court.

    If you are not a planner and want to get a better understanding of the debate about the proposed reforms, take a look at the RTPI's top five planning myths.  I think they serve to reinforce…

    • 9 Sep 2011
  • Feeeling short changed

    Summer might be well and truly over, but my mind is turning once again to the deep blue sea and all the fabulous creatures that live above and below the waves.

    As I have blogged before, the UK’s seas are internationally important for wildlife and today’s publication of the long-awaited network of proposed English Marine Conservation Zones is a great step forward towards ensuring the long-term protection of special sites…

    • 8 Sep 2011
  • Doping scandal

    If you’ve ever had a dodgy knee or a kidney stone, chances are that you’ve been prescribed anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain. It’s quite likely that your GP’s treatment of choice was diclofenac. And very effective it is too.

     Not so good, though, if you’re any one of the three species of Gyps vultures from South Asia, and you feast on the carcasses of cattle that have been treated with…

    • 7 Sep 2011
  • Stop the mudslinging

    The debate around the future of England's planning rules has got a lot of people rather hot under the collar and the broadsheets are joining in, no doubt relishing the prospect of another Coalition u-turn.

    The Government certainly seems to be sending out mixed messages. The news that Greg Clark, the Planning Minister, was willing to hold talks with pro-countryside campaigners was welcome, but it was accompanied by…

    • 6 Sep 2011
  • The highs and lows of nature conservation

    The week-to-week world of conservation is always punctuated by a series of highs and low. This week has been no different.

    Yesterday, we launched our new report on biomass expressing concern about the impacts of a huge increase in imported wood for wildlife and the climate.  We released our report, in time, to help government fix the problem.  They also have time to sort out their planning proposals which continue to cause…

    • 3 Sep 2011
  • Bioenergy - how to get it right

    Over the years, the RSPB has campaigned for sustainable solutions to the climate change crisis.  We've argued for strategic siting of windfarms away from the most sensitive places for wildlife.  We've argued against destructive tidal barrages and in favour of environmentally benign solutions.  We've argued that biofuels must neither directly nor indirectly lead to the destruction of important habitats for wildlife…

    • 2 Sep 2011
  • The last days of summer

    Someone once said that August was always quiet - a good time to take a holiday.  I am not sure that the Prime Minister would agree having been called back twice from his holiday to deal with the riots and the crisis in Libya.

    I returned from my blackberry-free holiday (it was lovely thank you) to find that the good ship RSPB had been equally busy:

    • In the wake of the Gannet Alpha oil spill, we opposed the new round…
    • 1 Sep 2011