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Joan Edwards

Joan Edwards is the Head of Living Seas at The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

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European nature laws bring about daily benefits - have your say

Posted: Monday 11th May 2015 by LivingSeas

Cup corals and fingers off Plymouth Sound

I am fortunate to live very close to Plymouth Sound, an ancient drowned river valley which is now home to meadows of sea fans, delicate cup corals, underwater cliffs of sponges, sea grass beds and the occasional basking shark gliding through the waters.

European legislation can seem remote and difficult to understand but it brings these real benefits to us every single day

It is also a busy port and home to the Royal Navy.  One of the reasons wildlife still thrives in this busy port is that Plymouth Sound and its estuaries are protected under European law.

I firmly believe that this legislation has ensured that the Plymouth area has been developed and managed in a sensitive way that leaves space both for nature and for industry.  Without the checks and balances that this legislation provides, Plymouth Sound could be a poorer place for the people who live here and its wildlife.

The European Commission has released a consultation into a review of the fitness of the Habitats and Birds Directives – the legislation that protects some of our most important habitats and species at land and at sea.  This review is designed to make EU law ‘lighter, simpler and less costly’.  However, we are concerned that there is a mistaken belief, held by some, that these Directives are a hindrance to economic growth.

We have consistently defended our Nature Directives against the charge that they are a ‘burden on industry’. Over the years, we have responded to various reviews of the Directives and related regulations, and each time these reviews have consistently demonstrated that the Directives do not place unnecessary burdens on developers.  Instead they create certainty, allowing sensitive development to continue whilst protecting some of our most important habitats and species from damage and degradation.  And indeed, if these Directives were better enacted across Europe, they should help these species and habitats to recover, creating a base to support a healthy and productive environment. Protecting our environment on land and at sea brings benefits to us all- from food to flood defence, the air that we breathe to the immense health and wellbeing benefits that being closely connected to nature can bring.  European legislation can seem remote and a bit impenentrable to the average person, but it brings these real benefits to us every single day.

The European Commission is asking for your opinion.  This is your chance to have your say on the importance of these Directives.  But it’s not about protecting a piece of remote legislation.  It’s a chance for your voice to be heard.  For you to demonstrate how important the robust protection of our natural environment is to you.

Please use our web-form to have your say and add your voice to those defending these Directives, including over 100 environmental charities.  The European Commission is listening and this may be your only opportunity to make sure you are heard. 

Joan Edwards is The Wildlife Trusts' head of Living Seas.  Originally a graduate of Bangor University, Joan has worked in marine conservation for more than 20 years. She started her career as a warden in the Voluntary Conservation Area at Wembury, Devon.  Joan is Chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Marine Task Force, a coalition of the main non Government organisations working on marine issues.

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