Michael Gove approves the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory

From InsideEcology: The Badger Trust has condemned the decision by Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, to approve 11 new badger cull licences in England in 2018, bringing the total in operation to 31.

As a result of this major expansion of badger cull, 40,892 badgers could be killed by the end of 2018, more than during the last 5 years of the badger cull combined.

Despite a huge increase in the number of badgers to be killed, the Government has yet to provide any reliable evidence that badger culling is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones.

With no effective independent monitoring of cull contractors, the Badger Trust is also increasingly concerned that badgers will die long painful deaths due to the continued use of controlled shooting, a culling method which is condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.

The Badger Trust has already raised serious animal welfare concerns with Natural England over the trapping of badgers for up to 12 hours in cages in the heat wave in Gloucestershire and Somerset, under existing supplementary cull licences which have been operation since June.

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Philip Hammond wants to tear up Britain’s ‘green belt’ for housing

From Business Insider UK: Philip Hammond wants to tear up Britain’s green belt land for house building in his budget next month, as he looks for cost-free measures to address Britain’s housing crisis.

The chancellor has been pushing for green belt reforms for months inside the Cabinet, the Times reports, which would be made in an effort to tackle low productivity levels and meet national demand for housing.

[Read full article on Business Insider UK…]

Campaigners accuse Conservatives of failing to protect England’s green belt

From The Guardian: The Conservatives have been accused of failing to protect the countryside after research revealed that the number of new homes being planned on green belt in England had increased by over 50% since last year and the majority were not classed as affordable.

Theresa May told parliament in February that the government was “very clear that the green belt must be protected”, but 425,000 new homes are currently planned for sites designated to protect against urban sprawl, up from 273,000 in March 2016, according to research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

More than 70% of those are not classed as affordable, a category that includes social housing and homes rented by housing associations for up to 80% of market rent.

“Green belt is being lost at an ever faster rate, yet the type of housing being built now or in the future will do very little to address the affordable housing crisis,” said the CPRE’s policy director, Tom Fyans.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tory Government suspends ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees

From The Guardian: Farmers will be able to use blacklisted pesticides linked to serious harm in bees after the UK government temporarily lifted an EU ban.

Opponents called the decision “scandalous” and criticised the government’s secrecy, which The Guardian revealed has included gagging its own expert advisers. But prime minister David Cameron defended the move. “We should follow the science,” he said.

Bees and other pollinators are essential for many crops but are in decline due to pesticides, loss of habitat and disease. Over 500,000 people signed a petition opposing the suspension of the ban.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

How the Tories went from oak-tree logo to enemies of conservation

George Eaton writes in The New Statesman: Attempting to reduce more than 1,000 pages of English planning guidelines to just 50, the government has attracted the ire of the National Trust (which has over three and a half million members), the CPRE, Greenpeace and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, all of which warn that the reforms threaten the future of the countryside. The banally named Draft National Planning Policy Framework includes a reference to the need for “decision-takers at every level” to “assume that the default answer to the development proposal is ‘yes’.”

[Read full column on New Statesman website…]