Everyone to live 15 minutes from green space or water in England

Looks suspiciously like a rehash of old policies and unfunded new ones from a government whose approach to regulation is instinctively “light touch”. There are many reports with very mixed views. – Owl

Ministers have pledged that everyone will live no more than a 15 minute walk from a green space or water as part of a five-year environmental plan.

Sami Quadri www.standard.co.uk

The Government will also crack down on leaky lavatories and “confusing dual flush buttons” in a bid to meet targets for water, air and land.

Councils will be challenged to improve air quality more quickly and tackle major pollution hotspots. There is also a pledge to transform the management of 70 per cent of the countryside by incentivising farmers to adopt nature-friendly practices.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is set to unveil the measures on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said protecting the environment was “fundamental to the health, economy and prosperity of our country”.

He added: “This plan provides the blueprint for how we will deliver our commitment to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, making sure we drive forward progress with renewed ambition and achieve our target of not just halting, but reversing the decline of nature.”

Ms Coffey said: “Nature is vital for our survival, crucial to our food security, clean air, and clean water as well as health and well-being benefits.

“We have already started the journey and we have seen improvements.

“We are transforming financial support for farmers and landowners to prioritise improving the environment, we are stepping up on tree planting, we have cleaner air, we have put a spotlight on water quality and rivers and are forcing industry to clean up its act. ”

However, environmentalists have condemned the plan as a “road map to the cliff edge”.

Dr Doug Parr, of Greenpeace UK, said: “If this is a road map, it’s a road map to the cliff edge.

“Here’s yet more paperwork containing a threadbare patchwork of policies that fail to tackle many of the real threats to our natural world. This won’t do.

“Ministers want to crack down on dual flush toilets while letting water firms pump tonnes of raw sewage into our rivers and seas.

“Until we see immediate action (from) this Parliament to ban industrial fishing in all our marine protected areas, reduce industrial meat and dairy farming and ramp up protections across a bigger network of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, we’re in real danger of UK nature going into freefall.”

Paul de Zylva, of Friends of the Earth, said that “on closer inspection it seems that many (of the measures) are just rehashed commitments the government is already late on delivering – and it’s unclear how others, such as ensuring everyone can live within a 15 minute walk of green space, will actually be met”.

He said: “There’s also a big emphasis on improving air quality which is completely at odds with the government’s £27bn road building agenda, raising serious questions over whether councils are being set up to fail.”

The plan includes a multi-million pound Species Survival Fund to protect rare species, from hedgehogs to red squirrels, is promised along with a pledge that Government support schemes will help 65 to 80 per cent of landowners and farmers to adopt nature friendly farming practices on at least 10 to 15 per cent of their land by 2030.

They are also to be helped to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows a year by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedgerows a year by 2050.

The restoration of 400 miles of river through the first round of Landscape Recovery projects and establishing 3,000 hectares of new woodlands along England’s rivers is also promised.

Species decline over past 50 years graphically illustrated (from BBC)