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Environmental experts warn over “mixed messages” from budget policy announcements

A panel of environmental experts have warned against “mixed messages” in environmental policy announcements in the 2011 Budget.

Speaking at the Aldersgate Group’s Budget for Growth event, Herbert Smith LLP partner Louise Moore welcomed the announcement for a planning system with a “presumption of sustainable development”, but said there needed to be more clarity over the Chancellor’s announced planning reforms.

She said: “There’s been a mixed message in terms of development and sustainable development, looking at the written page, the question would be ‘what is the scope of that?’ I think fundamentally there is good news here that in terms of green infrastructure, this is the green light we’ve been waiting for.”

RenewableUK policy director Dr Gordon Edge also queried the clarity of planning policy announcements, adding that he feared there would be confusion over which department takes responsibility for planning under the reforms.

He said: “Does the planning reform really fit with what’s going on with the localism bill? My worry would be that we end up with a lot of inconsistent policy-making, or an uncertainty because we’re not sure which bit of Government will be leading on this and what the objective is.”

Aldersgate group chairman Peter Young criticised “equivocation” over the decision not to allow the Green Investment Bank to borrow immediately, and questioned the extent to which the budget really was ‘green’.

He said: “This phrase ‘The greenest Government ever’ is a brilliant phrase, and we have successfully managed to have a budget which has not eliminated more green measures than it has created so it can claim to be on that path, but from my point of view the speed and pace towards that path has not been there.

“Whilst we welcome the increase to the £3bn, we do not welcome the equivocation regarding its ability to act like a bank and be a bank.”

Green Fiscal Commission director Professor Paul Ekins lamented the loss of the Business Resource Efficiency and Waste (BREW) programme, which recycled landfill tax revenues into businesses and was discontinued in April 2010.

Professor Ekins said: “My real frustration is related to the fact that the last government stumbled a bit on what seemed to be a good way to promote resource efficiency – it had the landfill escalator, it took shedloads of money out of business it gave a small amount of that back to increase resource efficiency through a variety of delivery bodies of which I’m involved with one, called the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme. That has been fantastically successful and yet we look success in the face and turn away, we don’t continue even though the escalator goes on.”

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