Government's green policies slammed
The Government is failing to deliver on most of its commitments to help wildlife and the countryside, a coalition of leading conservation groups has said.
An assessment backed by 29 organisations has used a traffic light system to see if 16 Government pledges on the natural environment are being backed by policies which are well-designed and on track.
The Nature Check report criticises the Government over a number of controversial policies which conservationists say show ministers are failing to keep their promises on protecting nature.
They include the reliance on a badger cull to tackle bovine TB, attempts by ministers to dispose of publicly-owned forests to businesses and charities and the current row over changes to the planning system which opponents fear will lead to a return to damaging development in the countryside.
Just two of the promises outlined in the Government's coalition agreement have been given a green approval rating in the report published by the Wildlife and Countryside Link umbrella group.
The Government has earned the backing of the conservation groups for its action on pledges to oppose the resumption of commercial whaling and to press for a ban on ivory sales. A further seven commitments have been given an amber rating because the groups say ministers are failing to support positive ambition and rhetoric with effective policies.
Seven more pledges are given a red light, including promising to reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods more of a say in their local area and to create a presumption in favour of sustainable development in planning.
Other areas where the conservation groups say the Government is failing to deliver well-designed policies on time include preventing unnecessary building in flood plains and ensuring measures to look after the seas and open access to the coast are implemented effectively.
Martin Harper, conservation director of the RSPB, one of the groups in the coalition, said: "In these financially-straitened times politicians may be tempted to ignore the natural environment in favour of economic growth - but this kind of short-termist attitude won't wash with a British public which expects the Government to protect the countryside and wildlife we all hold dear."
Neil Sinden, policy and campaigns director for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the Government would not be the greenest ever, as it claimed, if it continued with a "business as usual" approach to economic growth.