At ENDS we are used to condensing heavyweight documents and complex situations into far more digestible material. But I doubt we have ever managed to reduce anything to a mere 22 words.
Simon Birkett, who heads the Campaign for Clean Air in London, managed to do just this on 23 February, in a post on microblogging website Twitter:
Some say DEFRA was forced to make today’s screeching U-turn on its forest disposal plans simply because it got its preparation and presentation wrong.
According to this view, its proposals for state-owned woodland in England had merit, but were victims of scaremongering by press and campaigners. The average reader/viewer was given the impression that all England’s woodlands were in danger of the chop, ministers complained.
In reality, under a fifth of the nation’s total woods and forests were involved. Tree planting and felling would have continued to be regulated by the government’s Forestry Commission, with no upsurge in deforestation.
And DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman had promised that biodiversity and public access would be protected in Forestry Commission woodlands being sold or leased.
All true. Even so this was a rotten set of proposals; rushed, poorly justified, fuelled mainly by dogma and deficit-cutting, short-term greed. They richly deserved to be scrapped, but the Forestry Commission and its state-owned forests are now left in a kind of limbo. (more…)
The government appears very confident that the European Commission will grant it more time to meet EU limits on particulate pollution in London.
Every official I have spoken to has been at pains to stress that the process is a mere formality. The UK is absolutely not at risk of being taken to court, let alone of facing EU-imposed fines, they chorus.
Meanwhile, local government is beginning to notice with alarm that the Localism Bill currently in parliament would make councils – who are responsible for delivering on local air quality targets – liable in the (unimaginable) eventuality that the UK faced EU fines for breaching European air quality standards.
Does the government know something we don’t?