Natural assets depleted by concreting Chancellor

Wednesday 26th June 2013

The Gwent Levels - at risk from plans for an extension to the M4 around Newport

The health of the UK economy and its natural assets has today been placed at risk by the Chancellor’s budget cuts and misguided focus on building new roads to boost growth.

Despite a huge body of evidence that the natural environment underpins the health of both society and the economy, and that investment in the natural environment is a cost effective way of addressing many of the UK’s future needs, the Chancellor has cut the Defra budget by around 10%.  This will mean less investment in the natural environment, such as the creation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).  It contrasts with the Government’s announcement expected tomorrow, of over £100 billion investment in ‘grey’ infrastructure including the largest programme of investment in roads for half a century.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“During this Spending Review, the Treasury appears to have conveniently misplaced its own Green Book guidance on assessing economic and environmental benefits.  Road schemes such as the proposed £1 billion extension of the M4 through the Gwent Levels in Wales have little or no economic justification and will cause irreversible damage to wildlife and valuable landscapes.  Instead of supporting the UK’s long-term recovery through investment in rebuilding our natural capital, the Chancellor is concreting over the countryside in a short-sighted bid for growth.”

Earlier this year, an influential business-led Ecosystem Markets Taskforce established by Government, highlighted the “emergence of a new economy: one that fully integrates the real value of nature”.

Paul Wilkinson continues “Government is yet to respond to the Task Force report but today’s statement by the Chancellor suggests the Government is living in the concrete-led past and not the nature-led future.”