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RSPB Apologises After Labelling Ministers ‘Liars’ Over Environment Pledges

RSPB

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has apologised for its comments made toward Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and several ministers on X. The conservation charity took to social media on Wednesday to address the Government’s decision to scrap water pollution restrictions for housing developments in England.

Nutrient neutral

On Tuesday, the Government confirmed its plans to scrap EU-era rules restricting water pollution for new housing developments. Under an amendment, which is being debated in the House of Lords, developers will no longer be financially responsible for offsetting nutrient pollution caused by sewage.

The Government has been focusing on making it easier for local authorities to approve new housing developments and says it hopes other measures to tackle pollution will offset the decision. The scrapping of the rule is part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is currently going through amendments in the House of Lords. By removing it, the government believes that the country will benefit from an extra £18bn of economic activity.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said “These new plans will cut nutrients and help support England’s precious habitat whilst unlocking the new homes that local communities need.”

The RSPB’s response

The move sparked backlash from environmental groups who condemned the plans. For example, the Wildlife Trust’s chief executive Craig Bennett said that this will not “solve root causes of the housing problem.” Meanwhile, the Rivers Trust have said that “the latest plans to rip up water pollution rules show, once again, that our Government is backtracking on the environment and taking decisions that abandon previous commitments and promises, and ones which our European neighbours enjoy. We do not need to choose between new homes and clean water, we can have both. Now is the time to develop homes responsibly, working with house builders who want to find positive solutions to achieving nutrient neutrality.”

In particular, the RSPB post on X which sparked controversy labelled Rishi Sunak, Therese Coffey and Michael Gove as ‘liars’. The RSPB wrote: “You said you wouldn’t weaken environmental protections. And yet that’s just what you are doing. You lie, and you lie, and you lie again. And we’ve had enough.”

The tweet was criticised by trustee and British environmentalist, Ben Caldecott, who said it was “not an appropriate contribution to our public discourse’.

Apologising for the statement on Wednesday night, the charity said “We are in a nature and climate emergency and that demands urgent action. The RSPB is deeply frustrated by the government’s reneging on its environmental promises. But that frustration led us to attack the people not the policy. The RSPB noted that the tweet ‘falls below the standards’ it sets itself but that the organisation was ‘deeply frustrated by the Government’s reneging on its environmental promises’.

Final thought

The decision to scrap the “nutrient neutral” restrictions for new housing developments near waterways has sparked a debate between environmental groups and housing advocates. The government’s pledge to double its investment in Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme and provide grants to farmers for improved slurry storage is seen as a positive step, but some argue that it is not enough to mitigate the potential environmental impact. Ultimately, the decision highlights the complex balancing act between economic growth and environmental protection, and the need for sustainable solutions that prioritise both.

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