‘Countryside “at risk from builders” if quangos merge’ was the headline in the Daily Telegraph on 13 December.
The story was about the triennial review of Natural England and the Environment Agency, for which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has just launched a consultation. The paper reported that Owen Paterson, the environment secretary is considering merging Natural England and the Environment Agency as part of a ‘bonfire of the quangos’.
This would be deeply alarming, and the story went on to focus on Natural England’s work on wildlife habitats. As this gave only a partial picture, I fired off a letter, which unfortunately was not published–so I shall publish it here.
SIR – It’s not only wildlife and its habitats which are at risk if Natural England and the Environment Agency are merged and staff and budgets cut (report, 13 December). Natural England works to increase the public’s understanding of the environment and encourages people to enjoy the outdoors; it supports and advises on access and public paths; it designates national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, national trails and access around England’s coast—and much else. Sadly, it can no longer champion these causes—the government has ruled that it must be a delivery body—but it is still has a vital role in bringing people and the natural environment together.
We would be much the poorer without it.