Coalition unveils programme for Government

Posted by Cath Flitcroft on 21/05/2010
Dave & Nick (Cameron & Clegg, not Turnbull & Colton).

The BMC analyses the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition programme for Government and what this might mean for the outdoors. What can we expect from Dave and his deputy Nick?

A fortnight after the election, the 36 page document which outlines David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s policies for a coalition government, was published with anticipation yesterday. Amongst the proposals, the Government plans to reform the banking system to promote a competitive economy, to devolve power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups, and to encourage the reform of football governance rules to support co-operative ownership of clubs by supporters. However, there is little detail to date of policies relating to access to our countryside, the importance of recreation, and access to grassroots sports.

In their original party manifesto, the Liberal Democrats stated that “we believe that grassroots sport is just as important (as high profile events). We will give people from all backgrounds and generations the opportunity to participate in sports”. Similarly, they pledged to “increase the general right of access to the countryside, along the lines of the model introduced by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland”. So there is hope that more details will emerge in the coming months....

There is a commitment by the treasury to save £6bn in the coming year; the concern here is at what price? The BMC has spent the past two years campaigning for a permanent right of access to the coast with a new right to walk along England’s coastline and a permanent right of access to a coastal margin (spreading room) around the coast (including beaches and cliffs). This was secured in the Marine and Coastal Access Act which received Royal Assent in November 2009. The statement today in the coalition programme suggests that the implementation of these new rights will still go ahead;

  • We will take forward the Marine and Coastal Access Act and ensure that its conservation measures are implemented effectively.

There is however, a commitment to reduce the number and cost of quangos. These may include Natural England, National Park Authorities, the Forestry Commission, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Sport England – all of whom have good working relations with the BMC. With public expenditure likely to be severely squeezed, these organisations may well have to make big cuts. Natural England has recently finalised its Coastal Access Scheme which outlines plans for the establishment of a coastal path and coastal margin with an estimated cost of £50m over ten years. There are now fears that a Government looking for billions of pounds of cuts and an increasingly strong lobby from the landowning and farming sector, may find this important scheme an easy option to cut…..

A spokesperson for Richard Benyon, the new Conservative Under-Secretary of State for the Environment told grough earlier this month:

Any coastal path will need investment but no government can make guarantees of funding over a 10-year period, especially during these difficult economic times….We recognise the benefits of increased access to the coast of Britain and see the act as a means of making that happen. However, we do have concerns about what certain impacts of the path – in particular spreading room – might have on some rural businesses.”

Richard Benyon has responsibility for the natural environment, wildlife and the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Act, countryside and rights of way as well as wider access issues. The BMC is currently seeking a meeting with him to highlight the importance of coastal access and further commitment from the new Government that implementation of the new access rights will commence soon.

Caroline Spelman was appointed Defra Secretary and will be responsible for Natural England. She said: “I am delighted to have been appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The department is responsible for many of the things that are vital to our quality of life: the food we eat, the air we breathe and how we manage the land we live on and the seas that surround our shores.  I will work across Government and beyond to respond to the challenges of increasing food production, adapting to climate change, protecting our natural environment and ensuring we live sustainably”.

Key extracts from the Coalition Government’s programme on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

“The Government believes that we need to protect the environment for future generations, make our economy more environmentally sustainable, and improve our quality of life and well-being".

  • We also believe that much more needs to be done to support the farming industry, protect biodiversity and encourage sustainable food production.
  • We will introduce measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.
  • We will introduce measures to protect wildlife and promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
  • We will launch a national tree planting campaign.
  • We will review the governance arrangements of National Parks in order to increase local accountability.
  • We will work towards full compliance with European Air Quality standards. 
  • We will take forward the findings of the Pitt Review to improve our flood defences, and prevent unnecessary building in areas of high flood risk.
  • We will examine the conclusions of the Cave and Walker Reviews, and reform the water industry to ensure more efficient use of water and the protection of poorer households.
  • We will work towards a ‘zero waste’ economy, encourage councils to pay people to recycle, and work to reduce littering. 
  • We will reduce the regulatory burden on farmers by moving to a risk-based system of regulation, and will develop a system of extra support for hill farmers. 
  • We will investigate ways to share with livestock keepers the responsibility for preparing for and dealing with outbreaks of disease.
  • We will take forward the Marine and Coastal Access Act and ensure that its conservation measures are implemented effectively.
  • As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis. 
  • We will promote high standards of farm animal welfare. We will end the testing of household products on animals and work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research. We will promote responsible pet ownership by introducing effective codes of practice under the Animal Welfare Act, and will ensure that enforcement agencies target irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs.
  • We will ensure that food procured by government departments, and eventually the whole public sector, meets British standards of production wherever this can be achieved without increasing overall cost. 
  • We will investigate measures to help with fuel costs in remote rural areas, starting with pilot schemes.
  • We will create a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the planning system.
  • We oppose the resumption of commercial whaling, will press for a ban on ivory sales, and will tackle the smuggling and illegal trade on wildlife through our new Border Police Force. 
  • We will bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act.

The full Coalition programme from the Government can be downloaded here.
 



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