- Safeguarding our environment for future generations is central to the policies of the Wessex Regionalists. All political parties claim to care about the environment, but the big London parties underestimate the radical actions necessary to avoid catastrophe. We are waging an undeclared war on the natural world. In just over forty years, Britain has lost 140,000 miles of wildlife-rich hedgerow and more than 95% of its unimproved meadowland. Original-growth woodland has all but disappeared and an area the size of Bristol is concreted over every year. Wessex, faced with relentless population and traffic growth, is on the front line of this battlefield. Its estuaries, laden with international wildlife designations, remain vulnerable to pressure for industrialisation and port-related development, as at Royal Portbury Dock on the Severn Estuary and Dibden Bay on Southampton Water. Central Government, instead of enforcing the EU directives meant to protect them, seems more interested in finding loop-holes through which to destroy them.
- There must be comprehensive protection for sensitive and ecologically diverse sites, to preserve the unique natural heritage of Wessex. To support our farmers and help them maintain important wildlife habitats there must be an extension of the ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) designation to more areas of Wessex. This will enable small farmers to continue to maintain their livelihood on marginal land without having to destroy the environment in which they live and work. Protection is not enough and we favour large-scale efforts to expand habitats that have been under attack, such as the Dorset heathlands. Tree-planting will also be promoted, where it is compatible with the landscape and with other habitats.
- The Government plans to designate the New Forest and the South Downs as National Parks. We are concerned that in both cases, this will take control out of the hands of local people and place it in the hands of an appointed National Park Authority, subject to undue pressure by commercial leisure interests. Existing national park authorities, for Dartmoor and Exmoor, should be restructured to strengthen local control over the environment.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- cease the practice of artificially excluding areas with development potential from protected Natura 2000 sites
- strengthen planning protection for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, wetland areas, flood plains and green belts.
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- oppose moves to centralise planning decisions, whether by transfer to quangos or by the use of Parliamentary approval-in-principle for development projects judged to be ‘of national importance’
- campaign for stronger local planning policies to protect the natural environment (in particular, a Green Belt for Winchester should be designated)