Ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s plans for ancient woodland get the axe

Controversial plans quietly set aside

Paterson's plans have quietly been set aside by the Government
Paterson's plans have quietly been set aside by the Government

Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s controversial plans to allow the destruction of ancient woodland if new trees are planted elsewhere appear to have been quietly set aside.

Mr Paterson championed “biodiversity offsetting” right up until the time he left his position last July, arguing that it would enable much-needed developments to be built at the same time as “delivering a better environment over the longer term”.

The scheme stipulated that when a development causes unavoidable damage to biodiversity, “new, bigger or better nature sites will be created”.

Although many of the sites being offset may be of relatively little environmental importance, Mr Paterson caused an outcry when he admitted that the criteria were so broad it could be applied to 400-year old woodland. Campaigners argued that it was impossible to make up for the loss of woodland ecosystems built up over centuries by planting new trees on virgin sites.

Signs that the drive towards biodiversity offsetting may be decelerating first emerged last March, when the government said it would wait until six two-year pilots, completed that month, had been assessed. Nearly a year later, nothing seems to have progressed.

Asked whether biodiversity offsetting was still on the agenda, or had been quietly dropped, a Defra spokesman said: “The government is still reflecting on the pilots and consultation. The report is still be reviewed and no date has been set yet for publishing that report.” Mr Paterson’s replacement at Defra was Liz Truss.

Joan Walley, Labour MP and chair of the government’s cross party Environmental Audit Committee, said she had noticed a definite change of pace over the months from “full-steam ahead” to something far more leisurely.

Her committee published a report in November 2013 on biodiversity offsetting raising concerns that the proposals posed a threat to long-established ecosystems.

She told The Independent: “Despite the tight timescale, all now seems to have gone quiet and I wonder whether the idea was simply a pet scheme of the former secretary of state.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in