Fighting the merger of countryside agencies

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The society was one of 23 signatories of a letter which was published in Friday’s Times (15 March 2013), opposing the threatened merger of the Environment Agency and Natural England. The letter is reproduced below.

The horsemeat scandal highlights the need for well-resourced, independent, science-led agencies that can bring their specific expertise to bear in the public interest. Despite this, the Government is considering merging two agencies that have different remits and areas of expertise. Natural England is a vital champion for wildlife, landscapes, recreation and public engagement with the outdoors, while the Environment Agency protects the public from flooding and pollution. The public considers both to be hugely important.

Yet, in a single body, because the Environment Agency’s core business is flood defence there will be inevitabl pressure to prioritise this over wildlife and landscape, and their enjoyment by the public. This would leave England without a government agency devoted to protecting the countryside for the first time since 1949 which would be a disaster for our landscapes and wildlife.

It would set an extremely bad example to other countries that are being urged to conserve their environment. Furthermore, a merger between two large agencies would bring few savings, but significant costs when each agency should be focusing its specific expertise on the distinct challenges of increasing flooding and the seemingly inexorable declines in our wildlife and habitats.

The Cleveland Way National Trail. Natural England is responsible for national trails. These could suffer if NE is merged with EA.

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