For many years I have understood that the ubiquitous Great Crested Newt is protected in light of it's scarcity across the EU despite it being found on a significant number of development sites across the UK. If we leave the EU does "Newty" have a less protected future?
With the ongoing debate on the referendum I have been pondering what may happen to the planning system, if anything. I have to admit that only after a few weeks I am finding the politcial debate heavy going but there again no different to any other election. One of the primary themes from the those wishing to leave is that there will be a much simplified regulatory system and reduced burden on business. This is certainly one of the core issues that many organisations have and in particular noting the many trade organisations whose members are out in the real world running businesses. I have for many years been involved with or a member of the Mineral Products Association who have been lobbying Government on the regulatory burden. The shear amount of legislation operators have to comply with is daunting.
When I refer to planning I also think of environmental and other associated legislation. Firstly there is the ongoing generation of "Directives" from the bowels of the EU covering a multitude of matters not least the EIA Directive, Habitats Directive, Waste Directive, Water Directive and Mine Waste Directive to name a few. In addtion to the Directives there is the added concern that these are all "gold plated" when transposed into UK law. There is plenty of evidence that the final legislation goes way beyond the original brief and intent of the Directive. What I would be interested to understand is what empirical evidence is there to demonstrate or prove that these Directives have had the desired affect? I guess some have, certainly on one hand the Habitats Directive has increased biodiversity but on the other hand it could be argued that the protection of endangered species has on occasions been used to frustrate development.
Another example is the Mine Waste Directive. At the onset the need to safeguard mine waste tips and most importantly to protect people who live near them as well as preventing them causing significant environmental damage was obvious in light of some high profile cases. However I experienced this fundamental concern being "gold plated" into how can we regulate the storage of inert materials in below ground level lagoons eg silt from mineral processing. This debate ran for a few years. There are also some strange regulations relating to the managment of wastes which also have their origins in EU Directives.
Looking forward if we leave the EU will anything actually change, I have my doubts. The current Government made lots of noise about reducing the number of quango's and removing red tape, have you seen any evidence of this, I haven't. Despite the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework and the removal of thousands of pages of guidance the planning process doesn't seem to be any more streamlined. We don't seem very good at removing legislation and maybe because the process itself of repealing statute is long winded.
So in conclusion I think "Newty" will still have a protected life for many years to come. I don't think there is the will to actually reduce the regulatory burden, it falls into the too difficult tray.