Greens attack Redwood policies

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S Green establishment yesterday appealed to the Prime Minister to stop John Redwood, the right-wing Welsh Secretary, dismembering wildlife and countryside conservation in the principality.

In an unprecedented move, the leaders of 22 top environment, heritage and scientific bodies, representing a combined membership of more than 4 million people, have written a joint letter to Mr Major warning him that his Cabinet colleague's policies threaten to cause breaches of the law.

This follows exclusive reports in the Independent on Sunday last month that cuts imposed by the Welsh Secretary were causing severe reductions in protection for wildlife and habitats, the abandonment of a Government programme to clear the principality's 20,000 miles of footpaths, and plans to turn over prime wildlife sites to local councils and get private bodies to take over the management of national nature reserves, including much of Mt Snowdon. Senior Whitehall officials have described Mr Redwood's policies as "declaring UDI".

The signatories of the letter include Sir Angus Stirling, director general of the National Trust and chairman of the Royal Opera House, Peter Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, Barbara Young, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Richard Morris, director of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr Franklyn Perring, president of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, and Colin Logan, chief executive of the Youth Hostels Association.

They attack both Mr Redwood's decision to slash the budget of his official watchdog, the Countryside Council for Wales - which has successfully opposed him over several major schemes - and the way in which he went about it, which they say is "undermining confidence and generating suspicion".

They say that Mr Redwood's decisions "jeopardise the UK's prospects of meeting its international commitments to environmental protection" and "could call into question the Government's commitment and ability to deliver its obligations under European and national legislation".

They add that the Welsh Office "did not seek the views of the public or of interested parties" during the production of Redwood's Environmental Agenda for Wales, which he launched earlier this month when rebuffing criticism of his policies.

l Mr Redwood will tomorrow be awarded a booby prize in the annual Green Ribbon political awards for Parliamentarians, as a result of his conservation policies.