Sustainable Development is dying in England and the conservation and heritage NGOs are as complicit as Government both local and central, because proper public engagement simply doesn’t exist.
SD was based on the fact that not only do societal needs have to be included into a future for all but were an absolutely essential component to achieving SD. Such a notion tied in very nicely with the concept of ‘landscape’ (which does not exist without people) as a basis for policy making in a locality or place and also ‘site specifics’ – a practitioner approach, well established and based on recognising the complexity and diversity of landscapes.
I live and work in France where public engagement was assured in all land management planning following the 1999 Loi d’aménagement et de développement des territoires (LOADDT) known as the ‘Loi Voynet’. Subsequently a landscape approach was embraced because it offered an easy method of adhering to this law and providing a truly integrated approach. This has guaranteed the preservation and increased biodiversity from the urban centres outwards. There are many things that can be criticised about France and indeed biodiversity still faces huge threats, but you still have insect splattered windscreens (even in town centres), wild flora and fauna populations are on the increase and soil (already enjoying an ‘intrinsic’ connection with all people due to Terroir principles) is firmly established as the base to work from. Fragment the soils you not only fragment the landscape including its people but cut the circle of life for all biodiversity. Many nature conservationists holiday in France and wonder at how and why the biodiversity seems intact despite obvious heavy human interaction – it is because decisions and management at all levels include humans, it is not unusual to attend ministerial high brow conferences and find a significant proportion of public and practitioners not only sat in the audience but actually invited to speak.
People and soil is the key, all people and all soils. As such a precautionary principle extends well beyond the limitations of what the English have defined it. And science over rides commentary at all times as it should.
England has lost it’s way and I blame ‘stakeholders’ – what a presumptuous term – and an installed and heavily flawed system staunchly defended by experts whose goal is ego driven to appear on TV or be quoted in newspapers who have their agenda to follow and only use what they need to attack whomever they have chosen to. Government policy is bound to be flawed with such a system based on everyone wanting to have their voices heard.
Everyone is talking, no one is listening to anybody and consequently the people are ignored, practitioners disenfranchised and biodiversity suffers.
Forestry and forests offers a route out of this situation as when the public forest estate and those who manage it, was threatened it was the public voice that secured public forest estate for the public, although the future management of the public forest estate is not yet assured. As NGOs and others realised what was happening during the campaign they jumped, or tried to, on the bandwagon or dismissed its importance. But it was moving too quickly, with grassroots activists keeping their feet hard down on the accelerator. The British have an intrinsic link to trees and woodland as much as the French do for soil. the result is a real chance for the first time to see public engagement at the forefront of future policy making and planning for England’s forests.
The NPPF, the text of which includes SD heavily (with 3 different definitions), was subject to a campaign of disapproval also. The NGOs CPRE and NT headed the charge of this campaign and largely got what they wanted – but for all their talk of SD they seem disinterested in the huge land grab going on in urban and peri urban landscapes.
England is now building again, but not sustainably and as many guessed without much impact on the economy also. Allotments and other urban open space is threatened as it never has been before. But it doesn’t matter to the NGOs as they have secured more specialness for their special landscapes and might even make even more money to preserve this specialness even further by way of ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’ (BO), which is the antithesis of sustainable development, defies Landscape and worst of all ignores people.
Whilst nature conservationists are busy discussing how to progress and the possibility of mega NGOs or dividing into smaller outfits, could they not finally admit that they have to sign up to SD also. Or do we need a new NGO based solely on campaigning for landscapes & SD?