Environmental groups call on the Prime Minister to intervene as ten green policies are scrapped

Within the first three months of the new government ten different environmental policies have been watered down or scrapped, according to analysis by a group of leading UK environment organisations.

These range from support for renewable energy technology and tax exemptions for low carbon vehicles, which have existed for over a decade, to privatisation of the Green Investment Bank and the scrapping of the Green Deal, the establishment of both being achievements celebrated by the last Conservative-led government.

Protection for the natural environment has also been weakened with a u-turn on a ban on fracking in protected areas. And the UK has cited an ‘emergency’ to exempt itself from an EU-wide ban on neonicotinoids.

Environmental leaders have called on the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, to clarify his government’s approach to environmental protection and climate security in what is a vital year for action on climate change.

In a public letter to the Prime Minister, written in response to the findings, the heads of the UK’s leading environmental groups said:

“We welcomed the Conservative manifesto commitment to ‘being the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than that in which we found it’. Unfortunately, ten green policies which could have helped you to achieve these goals have been cancelled or weakened in the past three months. These policies were developed over many years, often with cross party backing, and with the support and involvement of many businesses and charities. Only one of these decisions, to end subsidies for onshore wind, was a commitment from your manifesto. We have, as yet, seen no positive new measures introduced to restore the health of our environment or grow the low carbon economy.”

Responses to the analysis:

Dame Helen Ghosh, director-general, National Trust, said:
“We are keen to play our part in meeting the big environmental challenges of today – climate change and the catastrophic decline in wildlife and habitats. We see their impact day by day in our places.  But Government has to play its role in setting the right regulatory and fiscal framework – and the recent shift in policy positions is worrying.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive, CPRE, said:
“The Government’s commitment to neighbourhood planning and making better use of brownfield land is very welcome, but its overall record on the environment has been woeful. The Prime Minister clearly cares about the countryside and the wider environment, and recognises that strong environmental policies support a strong economy. He must now assert himself and ensure that his government lives up to its promises rather than taking decisions that we all regret in the long run.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“This list of recent policy reversals is shocking, and shows disregard for the health and wellbeing of current and future generations, as well as for the environment we all depend on. The Prime Minister should reset the government’s path as a matter of urgency, by reinstating these policies and bringing in truly visionary legislation like a Nature and Wellbeing Act.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive, Friends of the Earth, said:
“This all out attack on green policies undermines UK efforts to tackle climate change ahead of global talks in Paris, and sets back our renewables industry when other countries are speeding towards clean energy and green jobs.

“Over-turning the science-led ban on toxic pesticides may be illegal as well as irresponsible at a time when bees need protection.”

David Nussbaum, chief executive, WWF UK, said:
“This watering down of environmental commitments is short-sighted and short termist. As the world races ahead to develop new green technologies the government’s international standing is at risk unless the Prime Minister takes up the reins of his government and shows he is serious about establishing a long term framework for investment in renewables and positioning the UK as a leader in protecting the environment.  Thankfully – so early in this new parliament – he still has the opportunity to do so.”

Mike Clarke, chief executive, RSPB, said:
“The Conservative manifesto made a moving statement that our moors and meadows, wildlife and nature, air and water are a crucial part of our national identity and make our country what it is. For this to be credible, we will need to see a long term plan for the natural environment matched by actions across government, not a legacy of empty rhetoric.”

John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace UK, said: 
“Since the election, we have been moving from the ‘greenest government ever’ to the ‘greyest government ever’. This is not the mandate this government put to the country in the general election. And it will be a hard sell to the international community at the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year. Without any real domestic action to tackle climate change this government will lose any credibility to influence others.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport, said: 
“The changes announced by the Chancellor to vehicle excise duty have largely removed the financial incentive to buy a more efficient and less polluting car and fly in the face of the government’s environmental commitments.”

Analysis of changed policies

Not so common: where is the Common Blue?

Conservationists are seeking the help of millions of holidaymakers heading to the coast this summer in a bid to solve the mystery of a disappearing butterfly.

Common Blue at Cogden, National Trust beach in Dorset. Credit John Newbold

Common Blue at Cogden, National Trust beach in Dorset. Credit John Newbold

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Thank you National Lottery players!

Today the National Trust is taking stock and saying a big #ThankYouThursday to everyone that has purchased a National Lottery ticket and indirectly helped us to complete some amazing projects in our gardens over the past 21 years.

In fact, across 17 garden related projects we have received an incredible £19.07 million. Continue reading

HS2 Committee unlikely to accept fully bored tunnel through the Chilterns AONB

Mr Robert Syms MP, Chair of the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee, delivered a statement on 21st July to the effect that the Select Committee is strongly of the view that the case for a long tunnel has not been made, and that without prejudicing the arguments the Committee may hear from future petitioners the Committee believes it is unlikely that an overwhelming case will be made out for a long tunnel option through the Chilterns.

Richard Hebditch, the National Trust’s External Affairs Director responded to this announcement: “We’re disappointed that the Committee already seem to be ruling out a long tunnel under the Chilterns.

“Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have that designation because of their importance to the nation. As the nation’s biggest infrastructure project for decades, the HS2 project should have the best mitigation for its route through the AONB. In our view, that means a fully bored tunnel. We hope that the Committee will think again on this when they hear from individual petitioners in the coming months.”

Unique mapping project to capture the sounds of our shores

The public is being asked to record the sounds that shape and define our relationship with the coast across the UK in a three-month crowd sourced sound project – ‘sounds of our shores’ – being launched today by the National Trust, National Trust for Scotland and the British Library.

Sounds can be uploaded on to the first ever UK coastal sound map, hosted on the British Library website [1]. It could be the vibrant sounds of a working fishing village, gulls screaming on one of the wonderful seabird islands dotted around our coast or the kettle whistling from inside a much loved beach hut.

Fruit machines on piers and seafronts are just one of the vibrant sounds that you can hear on the coastline. Credit: Tim Stubbings

Fruit machines on piers and seafronts are just one of the vibrant sounds that you an hear on the coastline. Credit: Tim Stubbings

All of these sounds will be added to the British Library Sound Archive – creating a snapshot of the beautiful and diverse UK coastline that future generations will be able to hear.

The coastal sound map project co-incides with the 50th anniversary of the National Trust Neptune Coastline Campaign. Launched in May 1965, the Trust now manages 775 miles of coast in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Martyn Ware on Brighton   beach recording sounds for the sounds of our shores project. Credit: Tim Stubbings

Martyn Ware on Brighton beach recording sound for the sounds of our shores project. Credit: Tim Stubbings

Musician, producer and founder member of Human League and Heaven 17, Martyn Ware, will be using the sounds submitted by the public to create a brand new piece of music for release in February 2016.

Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environment Sounds at the British Library, said: “There is something really evocative about the sounds of our coast; they help shape our memories of the coastline and immediately transport us to a particular time or place whenever we hear them.

“As millions of us head to the coast this summer for holidays or day trips we want the public to get involved by recording the sounds of our amazing coastline and add them to the sound map. This could be someone wrestling with putting up a deck-chair, the sounds of a fish and chip shop or a busy port.

“We’d also love to hear from people that might have historic coastal sounds, which might be stored in a box in the loft. This will help us see how the sounds of our coastline have changed over the years.”

Sounds recorded, whether on a smart phone, tablet or handheld recorder, can be uploaded to the map via the Sounds of our shores audioBoom website or app (they are both free and easy to use). The sounds will then appear on the map, which will be hosted on the British Library website.

All of the sounds should be a maximum of five minutes in length and images and words about the sound can be added. People will then be able to share their sounds on the map with friends and family. The closing date for uploading sounds is Monday 21 September 2015.

At the end of the project all of the sounds that appear on the map will then be added to the British Library’s Sound Archive, where they will join more than 6.5 million sounds dating back to the birth of recorded sound in the 19th century. The British Library Sound Archive includes tens of thousands of environmental recordings from storms and waves to birdsong and weather, which provide live data to scientists and researchers detailing how our world sounded at a given moment in time, and enable them to identify changes in our natural environment over time.

The sounds from the ‘sounds of our shores’ map will be used by Martyn Ware to create a new piece of music.

A 20-minute soundscape will transport listeners to the sensory richness of the coastline; capturing the working coastline and the coast where we go to play.

Martyn Ware, said: “I’ve had a deep connection with the coast all of my life. As a kid growing up in Sheffield we’d go on family holidays to Scarborough or Skegness; I can still remember the sounds that filled our days at the seaside.

“There is something emotionally deep about our connection with the coast which has shaped our identity. That is what is so exciting about this new commission and I want to capture the sensory nature of the coastline, reflecting the diversity and beauty of the sounds of our shores.”

Catherine Lee, National Trust Community and Volunteering Officer on the Lizard in Cornwall and a former sound recordist, said: “Visitors to the coast can record their footsteps in the sand then play it back a few days later and suddenly you’ll find yourself transported back to the moment you were walking. Or maybe record the sound of people ordering and eating ice-creams, the waves crashing against the rocks, the seagulls calling….it’s all totally unique.

“Sound has a wonderful way of bringing us back to a moment in time, a place or an emotional space.”

To get involved in the project visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coastal-sounds for top tips on recording sounds on the coastline and information about how to upload them on to the map. Participants will also be able to share their sounds on social media using the hashtag #shoresounds.

Trust ‘hopeful’ of rebuilding fire-hit stately home

The National Trust today said it hoped to rebuild, in some shape or form, Clandon Park, the 18th century mansion which was reduced to a shell following a devastating fire.

The house, near Guildford, Surrey, suffered extensive damage in the blaze which ripped through the building on April 29. The roof and floors collapsed, the rooms were destroyed and thousands of items are feared to have been lost in the flames.

The external walls however remain largely intact and a specialist team are planning the archaeological salvage operation to recover further items from the building.

The conservation charity said the full extent of the damage remains unknown as structural engineers and insurers continue to assess the site.

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Photo: Chris Lacey

But despite the many uncertainties, the Trust said it was hopeful that Clandon could be rebuilt and would have a long-term future.

Helen Ghosh, director-general of the Trust said: “We’re hopeful that one day we can rebuild Clandon but quite how, when and in what form is far from certain at this early stage.

“The house has been left a shell, with the inside of the building almost completely destroyed. We’re still awaiting guidance from the structural engineers on the safety of the house.

“As we get more information on the extent of the damage, we will be able to take a clearer view on the potential options for Clandon.

“Despite the uncertainty, we would like to reassure all those people who love Clandon as much as we do that it will continue in some shape or form in the future.”

Work will begin shortly to erect scaffolding around the building. Once the scaffolding work is complete and the building confirmed as safe to enter, the painstaking salvage operation can start again.

Significant items from the collection were rescued from the fire during the initial salvage operation including paintings, furniture and silver.

Meanwhile further details of over 350 items rescued have been confirmed including Onslow family photographs, personal mementoes belonging to the 6th Earl of Onslow relating to his time as a prisoner of war, and a silver christening mug.

Poignant and personal mementoes of the Onslow family that have been saved include:

  • A metal prisoner-of-war identity badge worn by the 6th Earl of Onslow in Offlag 79, a prisoner-of-war camp in Brunswick, Germany, where he was imprisoned during the last months of the Second World War.
  • A tie-pin cushion made after the 6th Earl of Onslow’s return from war from the hoof of ‘Queenie’ one of his horses that had served him and had been destroyed because of the shortage of food.
  • The 4th Countess of Onslow’s dinner book of guests and menus for dinner parties. It covers the period 1875-1910 and includes a Parliamentary Dinner from 1908.
  • Two framed photographs of Lady Teresa Onslow as a baby; she later married the journalist and author Auberon Waugh.
  • Photograph of Arthur, 6th Earl of Onslow, and his wife, surrounded by their dogs and caged birds
  • Speaker Sir Richard Onslow’s (1654-1717) silver christening mug.
  • State Purse and metal embroidered red State stocking worn by the ‘Great Speaker’ Arthur Onslow (1691-1768).

    State Purse of Speaker Arthur Onslow as Chancellor to Queen Caroline of Anspach (wife of George II); worked in silver thread with the arms of George II.

    State Purse of Speaker Arthur Onslow 

Sophie Chessum, the curator who is leading the National Trust’s conservation team at Clandon Park comments:

“We are so pleased that so many significant Onslow family portraits and associated historic artefacts were saved.  Three Onslow men have held the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, a unique achievement, and to have rescued their portraits and the Great Speaker’s State Purse is wonderful. We are looking forward to re-uniting the three portraits which had to be cut from their frames on the night of the fire with their elaborate gilded frames.

“We were greatly relieved that the Speakers’ Parlour has survived the fire and the frames were discovered unharmed several days after the fire.  Also rescued was the huge carved and gilt chair that stood on the Stone Stairs. This 250 year old chair might have been a gift to Arthur Onslow, known as the Great Speaker, to commemorate his retirement from the post he held for 33 years.”

It won’t be possible to confirm the full list of items saved or lost until the final assessment and salvage operation is completed.

Photographic, 3D laser and geophysical surveys are all helping with the assessment of the site along with new aerial footage of the building which can be viewed here

Shepherd found for Snowdonia project

The National Trust has appointed a second shepherd to support its innovative conservation project in the foothills of Snowdon in North Wales.

Daniel Jones, 36, from Anglesey will support the current shepherd, Bryn Griffiths at the conservation charity’s in-hand farm, Hafod-y-Llan in caring for the 1600 flock of Welsh Mountain sheep during daylight hours for the next five months.

He will be joined by his two sheepdogs, Jill and Nel.

Daniel Jones with his sheepdogs Jill and Nel in his new role at Hafod Y Llan. Credit Gerallt Llewellyn

Daniel Jones with his sheepdogs Jill and Nel in his new role at Hafod Y Llan. Credit Gerallt Llewellyn

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