• Every Child Outdoors?

    If you have the memory of an elephant, you might recall that last summer I had an enjoyable day at Rainham with a local school and their local MP, John Cruddas.  This was part of our festival of field teaching and it helped reinforce the importance of people – young and old – getting out and enjoying wildlife in their every day lives.  And, of course, this goes hand in hand with the need to protect and create…

    • 30 Mar 2012
  • What you might have missed...

    It was a real pleasure to walk in to our Land Use Planning team's office yesterday to see obvious joy and satisfaction at a job well done.  The more they looked at the detail, the more they recognised the contribution that their own advocacy had made.  We shall be publishing more of our analysis tomorrow.  It is perhaps one of the most pleasing things for an advocate to see their own text in a published government document…

    • 29 Mar 2012
  • Planning reforms - why we are smiling

    Last October, I suggested in a radio interview that the draft National Planning Policy Framework should be put in a park bin.  It was a rather cheeky reference to Oliver Letwin's error of judgement in disposing of constituency correspondence in a similar fashion.   There was real anxiety that the original draft would undermine the UK Government's own ambitions to pass on the environment to the next generation in a better…

    • 28 Mar 2012
  • Planning England's future: tests to judge planning reforms

    It's another big day.  The future of the landuse planning system in England is to unveiled at 12.30pm this afternoon. 

    The draft National Planning Policy Framework created a furore last summer because it gave priority to economic development over social and environmental concerns.  The National Trust, CPRE, ourselves and many other environmental organisations kicked up a fuss.  We shall find out today whether the Government…

    • 27 Mar 2012
  • Reasons to be cheerful: parts 1, 2 and 3

    I began last week a little nervous of the fate of key environmental legislation.   But I ended the week with a smile on my face - the Environment Secretary had confirmed the Government's commitment to the EU Birds and Habitats Directive.  There was no guarantee that the Habitats Regulations (which transfer the EU Directives into English law) would come out unscathed - it has been reported to us on a number of occasions…

    • 26 Mar 2012
  • A triumph for evidence over anecdote

    As you’ll be all-too-aware if you’re a regular reader of this blog, in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last year he announced a review that would ‘make sure that the gold-plating of EU rules on things such as habitats do not place ridiculous costs on British businesses’.

    Yesterday the conclusions of the Habitats Regulations review were published.  They show, as I confidently (ha!) predicted…

    • 23 Mar 2012
  • A grey day for the environment

    I don't think yesterday was quite the 'Black Wednesday' we feared but the content of the Budget meant that it was still a grey day.  Lots about grey infrastructure and very little talk about about green/natural infrastructure which is just as crucial to our lives.

    I noted the more moderate tone but I was certainly not dancing a jig of joy in the Lodge garden.  I would argue that the Chancellor George Osborne…

    • 22 Mar 2012
  • A letter and a poem for the Chancellor

    Before the Chancellor stands up to deliver his Budget speech today at 12.30pm, I would like him to read a letter and a poem.

    Here is the letter...

    And here is the poem - Philip Larkin's 1972 poem, GOING, GOING. 

    I thought it would last my time -
    The sense that, beyond the town,
    There would always be fields and farms,
    Where the village louts could climb
    Such trees as were not cut down;
    I knew there'd be false alarms…

    • 21 Mar 2012
  • Things that happen when in Stevenage

    This time last week I was lucky enough to be visiting two of our reserves (Greylake and West Sedgemoor) on the Somerset Levels.  It was a pretty misty day but that just made it even more evocative.  Displaying lapwing, flocks of wigeon and bugling cranes in the distance. Wonderful.

    A week on and I am in sunny Stevenage taking part in a workshop with colleagues.  But it is a little difficult to focus.  There have been one or…

    • 20 Mar 2012
  • Poll blow for Chancellor - wildlife laws should not be weakened

    On the day that the Government is set to unveil the results of its review of environmental regulation (the so-called Red Tape Challenge), an exclusive YouGov opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace and the RSPB has found that only 4% of voters feel that laws safeguarding Britain’s wildlife and countryside are too strong. In contrast, a majority of respondents 40% felt they were too weak, whilst another 37% think…

    • 19 Mar 2012
  • Guest blog: newts in the firing line

    As Mike McCarthy mentioned in his excellent piece in the Independent yesterday, we have our work cut out to prevent 21 March becoming a Black Wednesday for the environment. 

    We are working with others to make last minute pleas to the centre of the Government to ensure the reforms to the planning system and the review of the Habitats Regulations recognise the value of the natural environment to our economy. 

    My confidence…

    • 15 Mar 2012
  • Guest Blog: bats in the firing line

    This week, in the countdown to the Budget, I thought it would be good to hear from our friends from other NGOs who have been engaged in the review of Habitats Regulations.  Bats and newts have been in the firing line, so I am delighted that Julia Hanmer and Tony Gent (chief executives of the Bat Conservation Trust and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation respectively) have agreed to share their views through this blog.

    • 14 Mar 2012
  • Wild bird indicators paper wins press award

    A recent paper produced by my colleague Richard Gregory and Arco van Strien, statistician at Statistics Netherlands, has won the UniBio Press Award for Ornithological Science.  This is another example of the excellence in the RSPB’s conservation science programme and deserved acclaim for Richard.

    UniBio Press is the publisher of several biology-oriented academic journals. It is a non-profit organisation that distributes…

    • 13 Mar 2012
  • Flying high in Oxfordshire (and in Gateshead?)

    I spent the weekend under the flight path of a conservation success story – the red kite.  While warming up for the cricket season in my friend’s Oxfordshire garden, we had, at times five red kites for company.  Up close they are absolutely majestic animals.

    It turned my mind to Gateshead where the Lib Dems assembled this weekend for their spring conference.  The last time I was at a spring party conference…

    • 12 Mar 2012
  • A blast from the past and a letter to the future

    A year ago today we handed the Prime Minister a list of 360,000 people that had signed the RSPB’s Letter to the Future.  The letter was simple – it called upon politicians to think about the health of the planet while making big decisions about where to invest and where to make public spending cuts.

    This was also the day that we launched our Stepping Up for Nature campaign.  We wanted governments, businesses…

    • 9 Mar 2012
  • A fortnight to go until Budget day...

    I am spending a great couple of days with colleagues from across the RSPB hearing about the progress we are making with landscape-scale conservation across the UK.  We call this our Futurescapes programme. It is so refreshing to hear about successful partnerships being forged in fabulous locations (from the Cairngorms to Morecombe Bay and from the Somerset Levels to the Fens) to deliver more for nature and for people.

    • 8 Mar 2012
  • Floudering in Falmouth, Futurescapes fun and a farewell to Fiona

    Yesterday, I opened the latest Natura 2000 newsletter (providing an update from the European Commission on nature and biodiversity) and my eyes fell again on a graph showing the coverage of protected wildlife sites across the European Union.  The UK is floundering at the bottom of the league table in terms of percentage of national area covered by either Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas (just 7…

    • 7 Mar 2012
  • The future of aviation: agreeing the terms of the debate

    My quote of the day is from Neil Bentley, the deputy director general of the CBI.  He said in December  "Environmental regulation doesn't have to be a burden for business. Framed correctly, environmental goals can help our economic goals - help start new companies and generate new jobs and enrich us all."  Hear, hear!

    But I also note that 70 business leaders have signed a letter to call on the Government to…

    • 6 Mar 2012
  • Anecdote is not evidence

    Politicians like anecdotes to make a point.  Sometimes, these stories get the politician into a bit of a pickle.  Remember “Jennifer’s Ear”?  Or more recently “Theresa May’s cat”?

    I have no problem with politicians using stories to illustrate a wider agenda, but I do have a problem if the stories are not backed up by weight of evidence.  Politicians who choose to misinterpret the evidence…

    • 5 Mar 2012
  • Make George's dream come true

    Last November, the Chancellor described hard-won legal protections for our most precious wildlife sites, as a “ridiculous cost on British business”. 

    I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let's just say he was having a bad day.

    I think there is another Chancellor waiting to break free.  A Chancellor who before the election said: "Quite frankly, when it comes to environmental policy the Treasury…

    • 2 Mar 2012
  • Things you hear in the bath

    I’ve had a bit of a nomadic week.  On Tuesday night I was having a bath in a hotel room and Newsnight was twittering away on the telly in the background.  When I woke up this morning I had a vague recollection that I’d heard something about the Prime Minister shaking a tree and some angry pickles doing away with habitats.

    Perhaps it was a dream.  But, watching Newsnight [43.28 mins] again, and reading the Financial…

    • 1 Mar 2012