Would you like to drive for up to an hour to enjoy a stroll in your 'local' green space or wildlife site? There are some in Government who think that this is acceptable, especially if it means that the local wildlife site in question can be built on.
This is a result of what is called 'offsetting', compensation for the loss of a site or amenity, paid for by the developer who has trashed that site. The Government seems determined to introduce this tainted and essentially market-driven rather than environmentally-driven system to our planning processes. (Tainted because where it has been tried elsewhere, for example Canada, it has not worked in more than 60% of the cases.) Environment Minister Owen Paterson has been quoted as saying that an hour's drive is considered to be a 'local offset'. He has also said that ancient woodlands could be destroyed as long as extra trees were planted elsewhere. As if plantations, however extensive, could in any way replace or compensate for ancient, beautiful and wildlife-rich woodlands.
Nature conservationists are up in arms about this latest wheeze from the growth lobby. This is not to say that there should not be compensation for loss and damage to the natural world. There should, and there has been (although often inadequate) for many years. But this should only be a last resort, when all other ways of avoiding and mitigating damage have been exhausted. The offsetting proposals risk enshrining the mechanism as a normal and acceptable (to some people) part of the development process. It's the old thing about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
For those without cars, and in our poorest communities, who already suffer the greatest environmental deprivation, places an hour's drive away may as well be on the moon. With a car, from the centre of Birmingham you could get to Lichfield, Warwick or even Stoke-on-Trent, or, thinking of green spaces, Cannock Chase, the Wyre Forest or Kingsbury Water Park. Just the job if you are collecting the children from school and want a stroll away from streets and traffic, or are looking for somewhere to take your lunch break.
If offsetting becomes the norm would you mind giving some of the wildlife a lift please? Thanks.