Discussions at the recent COP 21 Climate Change Agreement in Paris about the long-term effects of climate change, along with the awful scenes for flooding in Cumbria, bring back into focus, how important it is to ensure that nature has at least a level pegging with economic development.
We know there is an intrinsic link between the economy and the environment. Without the environment, there is no economy as we rely on clean water, fertile soil and natural capital.
If we consciously choose short-term economic gains without making space for nature, we will jeopardise its ability to sustain and protect us and next generations to come. There must be an acknowledgment that new climate targets will only be met by accepting that biodiversity will play a key role in any solution – that’s at every level from global right down to grassroots at home.
When it comes to housing, developers currently draw on the economic arguments to back up their applications with the standard desktop lengthy reports covering ecology and sustainability that are the minimum required and often disregarded.
At CPRE however, we do speak-up for the natural environment, but the problem is that environmental considerations have been subordinated to house-building and economic growth.
How can this be responsible? At a time when climate change is back on the agenda, we should now ensure that biodiversity is put first.
In our local communities this is in the hands of local planning departments and ultimately the Planning Inspectorate which prioritises economic growth over the environment, as was made clear by Planning Inspector, Mr Geoff Salter, during his examination of the HDPF.
There must be much more representation for biodiversity at Westminster and at every decision level below that to ensure sustainability.
There are so many examples worldwide of carbon neutral housing developments that are a vision of the future. However they are in a minority in the UK and housing developments in the main seem to fall far short of sustainability.
We need to be much smarter with the use of space we have left, carefully balancing housing alongside nature. There is no need to accept second best if we recognise our accountability for the future and wish to make sure that nature continues to support us and future generations.
For and on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex - Horsham and Crawley, Guyhurst Spinney, Thakeham
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