Conservationists slam PM's claims NEWTS are to blame for home shortage

RSPB decries Boris Johnson’s suggestion that NEWTS are to blame for his government’s failure to deliver new housing and construction projects as ‘ridiculous’

  • PM has said red tape and newt counting was slowing down building of homes
  • Conservation charity RSPB has furiously responded to the Premier’s comments  
  • Charity say laws protecting animals are not to blame for infrastructure delays  

Conservationists have slammed the Prime Minister’s claims that newts are getting in the way of building new homes for Britons as ‘ridiculous’. 

Speaking earlier this week, Boris Johnson said ‘newt-counting’ is responsible for his government’s inability to deliver new housing and construction projects.

The Premier was referring to requirements introduced by the EU to protect the threatened Great Crested Newt, as well as other vulnerable animals. 

Charity RSPB has furiously responded to the allegations that vital legislation designed to protect British wildlife is the cause of a stalled infrastructure push. 

The charity believes newts, and all environmental laws, are being used as a scapegoat to deflect scrutiny away from the failings of Mr Johnson’s government.

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Conservationists have slammed the Prime Minster’s claims that newts are getting in the way of building new homes for Britons as ‘ridiculous’. Speaking earlier this week, Boris Johnson said ‘newt-counting’ is responsible for his government’s inability to deliver new housing and construction projects (stock)

Mr Johnson has made creating new homes across the UK a priority, this week standing behind a lectern labelled with ‘build, build, build’ in capital letters. 

However, he says red tape is interfering, citing laws which protect wildlife and natural spaces as being a hindrance to house building programmes.  

‘Covid-19 has taught us the cost of delay,’ Mr Johnson said. 

‘Time is money. And the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and prosperity of this country.’ 

RSPB, the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, has been outraged by this unfounded assertion. 

It says the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands all operate with the same legislation. 

The Prime Minister specifically singled out these European nations as being adept builders.   

However, according to official statistics, in the UK less than nine per cent of land is protected by the laws he is blaming.

This figure soars to 15 per cent in Germany and around 13 per cent in both France and the Netherlands.

This means the countries Mr Johnson believes to be superior constructors have cultivated this reputation while having less relative area to build on than the UK does.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director for conservation said: ‘We are absolutely right to compare ourselves with other European nations, but not for the reasons the Prime Minister thinks. 

Charity RSPB has furiously responded to the PM’s allegations that vital legislation designed to protect British wildlife is the cause of a stalled infrastructure push. The charity says newts, and other environmental laws, are being used as a scapegoat to deflect scrutiny away from the failings of Mr Johnson’s government

Yes, build, build, build! But DON’T pave over paradise, urges GEOFFREY LEAN 

Boris is right to ‘build, build, build’, to kick-start the economy. But, I fear that, unless he is careful, he could be building an environmental disaster.

Much of what the characteristically bullish Prime Minister announced in his well-trailed planning speech yesterday is thoroughly welcome. 

Much of the rest was unexceptional, focused on development of towns and cities. 

Yet I fear it may soon presage highly controversial concreting of the countryside.

But first let’s applaud Mr Johnson’s promise to ‘end the chronic failure of the British state… to build enough homes’. As he said, it is a scandal that we have been building half as many homes per head as France.

It is an even greater one that the number of Britons in rented accommodation has more than doubled, to well over five million, since the turn of the millennium.

The problem, however, is that we cannot be sure that Mr Johnson has given us the whole picture. Indeed we can be pretty certain he has not.

‘On the continent other countries are able to support their home builders and construction work without compromising their environmental standards.

‘It sounds ridiculous to blame newts for the problems of our housing market, and that is because it is. 

‘This view is not consistent with the Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment, it is not consistent with wanting to establish world leading environmental standards and it is not even consistent with the Government’s own independent report on why the UK is slow at building new homes.’

Instead of blaming newts and innocent animals, the charity instead suggests Mr Johnson should look at his Government’s own reports. 

These found that it is, in fact, not the newt which is to blame for stalled infrastructure initiatives, but the fact contractors have been building the wrong homes.  

In October 2018, Sir Oliver Letwin published a Government commissioned report which concluded that too many similar types of home were being built in the same area, and this was not what the housing market wanted or needed.

Martin Harper continued: ‘Time and time again the public tells politicians that they do not want to see any weakening of our environmental legislation. 

‘And to reinforce this, in the last few months we have all gained a greater appreciation of how important it is to have easy access to our natural world.

‘If the Prime Minister wants to help the housing market then it is time to look at how developers can work in harmony with nature, to make assets of streams, pools and woodland and the amazing species that rely on these important habitats. 

‘And, of course protecting those species like the great crested newt that, by the Government’s own assessment, is in decline.’  

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