Queen's Speech 2019: Government pledges return of Environment Bill

The new government has confirmed plans to reintroduce its Environment Bill, which would require developers to secure biodiversity net gain in all new schemes and councils to prepare spatial 'nature recovery' strategies.

Biodiversity: small White butterfly (Pieris rapae) feeding on bramble blossom. Pic: Getty Images
Biodiversity: small White butterfly (Pieris rapae) feeding on bramble blossom. Pic: Getty Images

Opening parliament yesterday, the Queen's Speech restated the government’s commitments to "take steps to meet the world-leading target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050" - described by prime minister Boris Johnson as "an absolute priority" - and to introduce the Environment Bill. 

The bill had been introduced to Parliament in the autumn but was withdrawn when the general election was called. 

It includes a mandatory requirement for developers to secure an overall ten per cent biodiversity net gain in all new schemes, while local authorities will have to draw up spatial "local nature recovery strategies".

Developers would further have to prepare biodiversity net gain plans to submit with their applications and guarantee the "net gain" for 30 years, with authorities having to police this.

The bill, the Queen said in her speech, "will enshrine in law environmental principles and legally binding targets including for air quality" and "establish a new world leading independent regulator in statute".

A briefing note published alongside the speech says the government's first 2020 budget will prioritise the environment in order to help "deliver the green infrastructure needed to improve lives and achieve net zero, including by investing in carbon capture, offshore wind, nuclear energy, and electric vehicle infrastructure". 

The government has confirmed many of the Conservative Party’s green manifesto pledges, including accelerating the roll-out of offshore wind to 40 gigawatts by 2030, up from the current 30GW target, enabling floating wind turbines, investing £4bn in flood defences and £9bn in energy efficiency. 

Meanwhile, Labour condemned plans set out in the Queen’s Speech to establish a constitution, rights and democracy commission that, as pledged in the Conservatives’ manifesto, will seek to ensure that judicial review "is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays".

Environmental campaigners have warned that moves to restrict the use of judicial review would threaten their ability to hold decision makers to account. 

Planning articles examining the planning measures in the Environment Bill can be found here and here.

A version of this story appeared on the website of our sister title ENDS Report yesterday.

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