GREENING measures announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson were labelled “a wasted opportunity”
by the UK’s largest nature conservation charity.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said it was a “poor deal”.
Martin Harper, conservation director, said: “When push came to shove the Government wasn’t prepared to stand by its commitment to incorporate wider benefits for society and the environment into support for farmers.”
The RSPB said many challenges face England’s environment including climate change, an erosion of wildlife, including economically-vital pollinators, and factors such as flooding.
Mr Harper said: “The Government talks a good talk, but in this case they failed to join up their policies when they had the chance.
“Today’s decision misses the chance to deliver their own ambitions around the Natural Environment White Paper and the England Biodiversity Strategy, which commits to being the first generation to pass on the natural environment in an enhanced state to the next.”
The RSPB said Defra could have used the funding more wisely, for instance, Ecological Focus Areas could have been a flagship measure to help ailing populations of pollinating insects, by providing pollen and nectar. Mr Harper said: “Without decent green measures, particularly Ecological Focus Areas that actually deliver for wildlife, the Government’s new Pollinator Strategy will be toothless.”
Abi Bunker, RSPB head of agricultural policy, thanked farmers doing their bit for working to save threatened species.
But she said environmental gains would now have to rely on much smaller elements of the English farming budget .
“The new ‘greening’ measures should have provided environmental gains across all of England’s farmland. But, instead, it will add no value at all.”
The RSPB called on the Government to keep its promise to shift the maximum amount of funding from subsidies to agrienvironment schemes at the earliest opportunity; and to ensure the remaining rules and regulations provide some level of environmental protection.